By VeloNews Interactive
Former world champion Mario Cipollini’s Domina Vacanze team and the Spanish squad Kelme, which won the team title at the 2000 Tour de France, have been denied places on cycling’s elite list for 2004, the Union Cycliste Internationale said on Friday.
They were among six teams, including the U.S. Postal team of five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, that the governing body had asked for more information before Thursday.
“On the basis of the complement of information given to the UCI since the 22nd of December 2003, and following the advice given by Ernst & Young, the PCC could not accept the registration of Domina-Vacanze (ITA) and Kelme (ESP) as TTI for 2004,” the UCI stated in a press release.
U.S. Postal, Italy’s Alessio-Bianchi and Fassa Bortolo, along with Portuguese team Milaneza Maia, all met the deadline and have been included on the 30-team list. As for Domina Vacanze, an Italian team, and Kelme, they will be replaced by Belgium’s Palmans-Collstrop and another Spanish team, Relax-Bodysol.
Domina Vacanze and Kelme have until January 15 to secure a place in cycling’s second division.
Cipollini secured a record 42nd career stage win in the Giro d’Italia last year but missed out on a place in the Tour de France when his team were not granted an invitation.
Kelme, which also won the team prize in the Vuelta a España in 2002, has acted as a showcase for some of Spain’s leading young cyclists in recent years, including Oscar Sevilla and Alejandro Valverde, who won a silver medal in last year’s world championships in Hamilton.
“It is a real blow to the sport,” Spain’s national team cycling coach Paco Antequera was quoted as saying by the Spanish sports daily MARCA. “Kelme is the most successful Spanish team in the peloton and has always been up there at the front despite having a very small budget and that is really praiseworthy. But to be honest I could see this coming.
“I’m sorry to say it but when the situation is as bad as it has been for Kelme, with riders not getting paid, then it is better to call it a day.”
Eleven Kelme riders have filed complaints to the UCI about unpaid salaries, the Spanish daily AS reported. Longtime team manager Joan Mas left the team this week in a power struggle over who would control the team’s books.
It wasn’t immediately clear what Kelme’s future would be. On Thursday, team owner Pepe Quiles had said that the long-running Spanish team was safe from being dropped to Division II status.
“Yesterday, at about 4 p.m., we could mail all the papers to the UCI. Our Spanish auditor spoke with the Swiss auditor and he told us everything is in order,” Quiles told MARCA. “We are convinced the UCI will keep us in the first division.”
If Kelme is demoted to the second division, Quiles told MARCA, he would shut the team down, saying it’s not worth “a budget of $4.5 million to race in secondary races.” –AFP and Reuters contributed to this story
The list of TTI teams for 2004:
Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf (B)
Quick Step-Davitamon (B)
Team CSC (Den)
Illes Balears-Banesto (Sp)
Liberty Seguros (Sp)
Saunier Duval-Prodir (Sp)
Ag2r Prevoyance (F)
Brioches La Boulangere (F)
Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone (F)
Credit Agricole (F)
R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover (F)
T-Mobile Team (G)
De Nardi (I)
Fassa Bortolo (I)
Saeco Macchine Per Caffè (I)
Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie (I)
Milaneza Maia (Por)
Phonak Hearing Systems (Swi)
U.S. Postal Service Presented By Berry Floor (USA)