Pegasus crashes to earth after UCI refuses Professional Continental licence
Future in doubt of Aussie team that had hopes of competing at sport's highest level
The future of Australian team Pegasus Sports, which less than two months ago had been hopeful of securing ProTeam status for the 2011 season, is this evening in doubt after world cycling’s governing body the UCI revealed that it has failed to meet the required criteria to participate in the second tier of the sport, at Professional Continental level.
The team, which this year raced mainly in Australia and the United States at third-tier level as Fly-V, had big ambitions to break into the top ranks of the sport but missed out on securing a coveted ProTeam place at the start of November.
Securing Professional Continental status should have been a formality, but the team’s plans have been hit following the apparent withdrawal of most of its promised funding.
Previously, it had been rumoured that the announcement of Alberto Contador’s positive test for clenbuterol during this year’s Tour de France, made ahead of the UCI Road World Championships starting in Geelong in September, had caused Pegasus to delay naming its headline sponsor.
At the time, the team’s chief executive Chris White denied rumours that a potential US-based backer had got cold feet in the wake of the allegations against Contador, saying instead that the timing wasn’t correct.
However, the World Championships taking place in Australia would have provided a perfect backdrop to unveil the team and its sponsor.
Just last week, White told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was confident of securing a European company as lead sponsor after rumoured backer George Gillett Jr – the former co-owner of Liverpool FC – who had been expected to provide the majority of the team’s budget, was said to have pulled out.
Although the UCI gave Pegasus an extension to prove that it could meet the various criteria needed to secure a licence, that has now expired, and In an announcement issued this evening, the governing body said: “On the basis of the file submitted to it within the established deadline and taking into account the opinion of Ernst & Young, the UCI Licence Commission today decided to refuse the registration of the Australian team Pegasus Sports as a UCI Professional Continental Team.
“This decision brings the registration procedure for 2011 to a close for first and second division. Therefore, there are 23 teams registered as UCI Professional Continental Teams for next season.”
In a statement released shortly after the UCI’s communiqué, White said: “We are shocked that the license was denied. The team was already prepared for the 2011 season and we worked really hard after the news from last week.
“Significant cost reductions were made and additional sponsorship both from within our existing sponsor base and an external group was gathered, in order to stabilise the team financially in the short term.
“The people within the organisation were at the centre of this action and commitment, which is a real testament to the mateship within the team. We do not want to give up. The team is exploring whether there are other options for next year.”
The UCI’s decision obviously leaves the team’s future in doubt, as well as that of the riders contracted to ride for it from 1 January, the most high profile of whom is the Australian sprinter, Robbie McEwen, and this evening's news is bound to alert other team's who may be interested in the Australian sprinter and his potential team mates.