In all the hullabaloo about doping, being overly harsh on Sky for employing a few dopers and all that the *ahem* most exciting part of this section of the season has been forgotten. Yes! That’s right! The joys of which teams get a UCI Proteam license. Nothing gets cycling fanatics more crazed then debate over such an issue…
This coming year, the licenses arguably have more credibility than other years – they after all get you an automatic invitation to the Tour de France, and the centenary edition will be excellent for garnering publicity for your brand. There are 18 licenses avaliable, of which twelve have been taken up, which leaves a total of eight teams fighting for the remaining five. Only one of these is a ‘new entry’ – Argos-Shimano, who have decided to try to step up to the big time. So here we have a look at the seven applicants, and weigh up who should be ‘promoted’ to the WorldTour.
As I write, the UCI have literally just announced that a further two teams have been added to the top tier, leaving just five teams left after three places.
The following teams are already in possession of a license for 2013, thanks to the UCI policy of handing out long term contracts to aid stability. Cannondale, for those not in the loop, are the new incarnation of Liquigas, whom have sadly left the sport, but the team was technically called Liquigas-Cannondale anyway so continuity is maintained even if the team has changed in terms of its squad, with stalwart Nibali leaving, though Sagan and basso remain.
AG2R La Mondiale
Astana Pro Team
BMC Racing Team
Euskaltel – Euskadi
Lampre – Merida
Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team
Vacansoleil – DCM Pro Cycling Team
We then get onto the five teams applying for the three remaining licenses, ranked on their sporting merit.
Team Argos – Shimano
Stars: Marcel Kittel, John Deglenkob
Big Buys: Thomas Peterson,Will Clarke
Losses: Alexandre Geniez, Dominic Klemme
Should they get the license? Argos have a strong team, with Kittell and Deglenkib the go too men in sprints, and Deglenkob looking increasingly dangerous as a man for the classics whilst Kittel uses his purer speed to win stages. They’ve minimised any losses in the transfer market, and Thomas Peterson, the decent American GC rider, could help them make an impact in that department. They also have an excellent kit, which always helps. They should and probably will take the 1st of the three licenses.
Stars: Andre Greipel, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Jelle Vanendert, Lars Bak, Jurgen Roelandts
Big Buys: n/a
Should they get the license? Lotto were originally down as one of the main teams, and supposedly had just filed paper work late, but somehow they’re now on the list of teams competing for final places after Euskatel, Garmin and Ag2r beat them to the first batch. With their team, which is essentially unchanged from last year, they should easily secure a license, given the talents of Greipel and Van den Broeck, which makes you worry if the financials are in order or not.
Stars: Sandy Casar, Pierrick Fedrigo, Nacer Bouhanni, Thibaut Pinot
Big Buys: Murilo Fischer, Alexandre Geniez
Losses: Gabriel Rasch, Yauheni Hutarovich
Should they get the license? In the end, it’s probably going to come down to a toss up between FDJ and Saxo-Tinkoff for the final place, with the Danish team more likely to sneak it. FDJ have oddly sold off their youthful talent, especialy Rasch and Hutarovich, and whilst they retain Bouhanni and Pinot, as well as Jeanasson, they might struggle next year. Whether they even want the license is another thing – they and Europcar aren’t overly keen on the idea of global racing. Still, they have glorious kit, and everyone loves them, so they have a chance – their anti-doping credentials are flawless after all.
Stars: Thomas Voeckler, Pierre Rolland
Big Buys: N/a
Should they get the license? No, because they don’t actually want it. Their team is based only around two men anyway, with occasional cameos from others (see Sebastian Turgot at Roubaix last year) and they are better at the national French races before being invited to the Tour (which they will be, without fail) and winning the nation’s hearts there. So they don’t want or need it – simple.
Team Saxo – Tinkoff
Stars: Alberto Contador
Big Buys: Daniele Bennati, Matti Breschel, Roman Kreuziger, Nicholas Roche, Oliver Zaugg
Losses: JJ Haedo, Vladimir Gustov
Should they get the license? The UCI point system is a bummer. If you build a team around one man, then say that man gets banned (not that he should have been racing anyway) then you do pretty baddly on the points front. Luckily, if a rich Russian turns up and bankrolls the signing of some pretty impressive names, then you can equally play the system and ensure that Jonathan Vaughters gets his way, so that money, not people, control the sport. But anyway. Learning lessons, Saxo have bought up a tremendous wealth of talent, with Kreuizger and Roche no doubt signed to help Contador in the mountains, Breschel will be hoping for a Nuyens-esque Saxo revival and Bennati and Zaugg will just want to win again (Although Zaugg’s one career win is the Tour of Lombardy). Still,Riis seems to have a talent for getting the best out of his riders (no inference intended), so the team will be good. They will most probably get the final license, and in reality, although I don’t agree with the system, it would be unfair if they didnt. Just hope they change the jersey.