Team Sky at risk of missing out on automatic invite to 2011 Tour de France

Rule changes and slide down the UCI ranking conspire against Team Sky

by Simon_MacMichael   August 18, 2010  

Team Sk Tour of Qatar squad (photo credit- Team

British ProTour outfit Team Sky is at risk of missing out on an automatic invitation to next year’s Tour de France, can reveal. Under new rules applying to cycling’s biggest race from 2011 onwards, the top 17 teams in the UCI world rankings, irrespective of whether they have ProTour or lower status, are guaranteed entry to the race. Team Sky is currently ranked 16th, and has just six events left, including the Vuelta a Espana, to consolidate its position.

UCI team rankings are calculated on the performance of their top five ranked riders, which in Team Sky’s case is Greg Henderson (97 points), Edvald Boasson Hagen (90), Juan Antonio Flecha (71), Bradley Wiggins (18) and Geraint Thomas (15). Of that quintet, only Flecha races in the Vuelta, which starts a week on Saturday.

Having a ProTour license grants teams the right to participate in all ProTour events, although it is by no means mandatory, with some outfits such as Cervélo TestTeam opting for the less stringent requirements attached to Professional Continental status.

However, things get complicated when it comes to cycling’s three Grand Tours and the major one-day events, which aren’t officially ProTour events, but are effectively given the same status in the UCI calendar.

For this year’s Tour de France, under an agreement made in late 2008, the 16 surviving ProTour teams of the 18 then in existence had been guaranteed a place in the 22 that started the race, the maximum permitted, although in 2009, only 20 teams took part.

From next year, however, it will be the 17 teams ranked highest in the UCI World Rankings at the end of this season that will pre-qualify for the race. Currently, that would include three non-ProTour teams – BMC Racing, Cervélo TestTeam and Androni Giocattoli-Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni – while current ProTour outfits AG2R-La Mondiale, FDJ, Milram and Footon Servetto would be vying with Professional Continental teams for the remaining places.

There’s therefore every incentive for outfits currently below Team Sky in the rankings to try and rack up points in this season’s remaining events to try and get into that top 17. In the latest rankings, Team Sky has 291 points, followed by Androni Giocattoli-Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni (243) and the French trio of AG2R-La Mondiale (198), Cofidis (148) and Bbox Bouygues Telecom (147).

Team Sky should in theory have enough of a cushion to finish in the top 17 and thereby guarantee automatic entry to the 2011 Tour de France, but will need to keep a watchful eye on the French trio in particular if they are to avoid having to rely on an invitation from race organisers ASO.

Meanwhile, road cycling’s growing stature as a global sport has been confirmed by the news from world governing body the UCI that 14 teams are scrambling to secure just eight ProTour licenses that are available for the 2011 season.

Those teams include eight existing ProTour teams whose licenses expire at the end of the current season, four teams that currently have Professional Continental status –  Bbox Bouygues Télécom, BMC Racing, Cofidis and Vacansoleil – plus Pegasus Sports, currently racing as Oceania Tour outfit Fly V Australia, and the new Luxembourg-based team to be headed by the Schleck brothers.

The eight teams whose licenses expire this year are Astana, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Milram (which is seeking a new sponsor), FDJ , Geox (currently Footon-Servetto), Liquigas-Doimo, Team HTC-Columbia and Telefonica Movistar (currently Caisse d’Epargne).

Meanwhile, ten teams currently already have ProTour licenses that cover the 2011 season, being Ag2r La Mondiale, Garmin-Transitions, Lampre-Farnese Vini, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Quick Step, Rabobank, Team Sky, Katusha, RadioShack and Team Saxo Bank.

The UCI awards teams ProTour licences based on a number of criteria, which it defines as “excellent performance in sporting terms – the most important criterion; unconditional respect of ethics; assurance of financial stability and effective administration.”

Here, too, things are less than straightforward – this year, Professional Continental teams adhering to the UCI’s Biological Passport Programme, qualified for Wild Card status, but that is now being phased out because all teams at that level now need to join the programme. With 28 applications received for Professional Continental status, there is also significant competition for places at that level.

The UCI’s Licence Commission will announce the provisional list of teams to be awarded licences on 20 November 2010, with the definitive list published the following month.

9 user comments

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I can't help feeling that this isn't a bad thing. Other than G Thomas's performance and to a lesser degree E B Hagen Sky were pretty anonymous this year. Maybe having to work for a place rather than being gifted one cos you are a big finance team will be a motivator.

I'm still not sure that the processes that worked so well for track cycling have transferred so well to the road. While I agree with Mr Brailsford that the margins of error are minute between a Gold medal and nothing, the number of variables are so much greater on the road. My biggest disappointment was the Prologue and the weather fiasco. As good as the sailing team info is, weather does what weather does. Lance stuck with his pre-determined start time. Maybe following his example would have been a better idea. He did win 7 Tours after all.

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [483 posts]
18th August 2010 - 18:08

1 Like

Good point. Had an interesting conversation about Sky the other day with someone who had a pretty direct line in to some of the other teams and he said there had been a lot of discussion amongst their rivals about how poor Team Sky had been at the Tour.

The riders felt that for all their big budget, fancy team bus, and talk about a new approach Sky didn't understand that it was passion that gave you the crucial extra edge when things were really hurting. I put it to him that there were surely enough experienced heads on the team roster and in the management who understood that full well. He agreed but said the feeling amongst their rivals in the peloton was that most of those guys were simply there for a big payday.

I really want to see Sky do well, but rather than sorting their ants from their chimps or whatever maybe what's needed is a serious application of boot to backsides in the coming weeks and months.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
18th August 2010 - 18:38


Totally agree Tony, I really do want to see Sky do well and I really hope that Gee can progress in the wake of the "start" he has made this year.

For all the talk of the stress of the Olympics/World Champs the truth is the pain is a few minutes at a time. Not that I could do it. But a 25km time can mean having to live in the pain zone for an hour, following a few hours on the bike and maybe more of the same. I'm big for science but there comes a time where spirit is essential.

For all the doubts of LA I have always said that his illness taught him a lesson that none (or few) of his contemporaries had. Ultimate life threatening suffering. At the end of the day the winner will be the one who can can bear the pain longest if their body doesn't actually quit due to dehydration etc.

C'mon Sky! Big Grin

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [483 posts]
18th August 2010 - 18:59


actually it seems to me Pat McQuaid(UCI) is not happy with the people behind the major sponsors of TeamSky and the articles in his papers about a certain cyclist being investigated by the Feds in the USA and the allegations of bribery and corruption in the UCI.

be careful of playing with fire Nerd

posted by Decster [246 posts]
19th August 2010 - 9:51


SKY, SKY, SKY where's it all going.....british road zeroes to heroes in a 5 year plan...... A poor first year, especially in the tdf - brailsford defends the progress etc, etc. but isn't the 5 year plan a smokescreen in reality.....are they developing talent in the case of gee (does he really have GT credentials in 4 years time ?) or are they buying success as they have ried to do with wiggo. If they have the money and are serious about success, why have shrek and contador passed them by for 2011 ? It seems to me they're trying to cover the lets be successful now and world beaters in the future bases....In hindsight, did they back the wrong horse in wiggo, as wiggo had a TDF 'mare compared to 2009 and they're looking over their top 17 GT shoulders for next year. Is their success for next year limited to GTs again with wiggo, is EBH the plan B and in the short term can he be good enough quickly enough? Ouch.....I have a brailsford sized road headache......

posted by stucee123 [3 posts]
19th August 2010 - 11:33


interesting point decster Rupert Murdoch owns the Wall Street Journal and more or less owns Sky too

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
19th August 2010 - 11:59


re: Decster

if thats the case what have HTC Columbia done wrong? Wink

posted by eddie11 [101 posts]
19th August 2010 - 12:15

1 Like

better ask McQuaid, i'm sure they have yet to make a donation to the Verbruggen/McQuaid benevolent fund yet! Big Grin

posted by Decster [246 posts]
19th August 2010 - 20:35


I think Tony's first comment was interesting about the passion missing. I've always thought Sky acted like they would just rock up and win everything without a fight so when they did have to fight, they didn't have the fire to do it.

I do like GT (the only Sky rider I like) and I hope that he is given the space to find out what kind of rider he is before the weight of everyone's expectations get placed on his shoulders. I think he'll be a great rider one day and hopefully he'll stay as excited and gracious as he was all during the Tour.

kittyfondue's picture

posted by kittyfondue [56 posts]
23rd August 2010 - 20:23