The music has finally stopped in the annual game of musical chairs that is registration of UCI ProTour Teams for the 2013 season… and the big news is that there is no place for Team Katusha.
The Russian super team with deep pockets and a roster that includes Joaquim Rodriguez, the rider who finished top of the UCI WorldTour Ranking in 2012, is out, replaced by Dutch outfit, Team Argos Shimano.
Katusha's exit caught many on the hop - with social media commentators treating as fact speculation that Saxo-Tinkoff would be the big name team to lose out right up to the moment the UCI threw its curve ball.
In fact despite all the rumours of Saxo-Tinkoff's imminent demise, the UCI's licensing commission gave the Danish outfit a licence for both the 2013 and 2014 seasons along with the team officially known, (for the time being at least) as the Former Rabobank; Garmin Sharp also got a licence for the 2014 seson.
Interestingly, last year when many observers believe Saxo Bank (as it then was) made the WorldTour cut by the skin of its teeth, it was only granted a licence for the 2012 season.
While it is plain to see why so many thought Saxo-Tinkoff would be out - the team struggled to amass points and the reputations of manager Bjarne Riis and star rider Alberto Contador are tainted by past association with doping in the sport - it is also easy to see, particularly with the gift of hindsight, why the UCI pulled the plug on Katusha.
Viewed from the UCI's headquarters in Aigle, it might be considered that the Russian outfit had thumbed their noses at world cycling's governing body over the past couple of seasons. Worse still, Katusha appeared to be getting away with it.
When Alexander Kolobnev failed a drugs test at the 2011 Tour de France he was immediately sacked by the team - so far, so good from the UCI's point of view. However the team did not enforce the clause in his contract requiring Kolobnev to pay back his salary plus damages for failing the test. The Russian Federation then refused to ban Kolobnev, imposing a fine instead. The UCI subsequently lost its appeal to the Court for Arbitration in Sport over the that decision and it could be said that Katusha then rubbed salt in the wound by re-signing Kolobnev for the 2012 season.
The failed test is not the only black mark against Kolobne;v he has also been implicated in the bribery scandal surrounding the finish of the 2010 edition of Liege Bastogne Liege at which the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera alleges he accepted a €150,00 pay off from Astana team leader Alexander Vinokourov to go easy in the final sprint. Vonokourov won, finishing six seconds ahead of his Russian rival.
Katusha were again involved in a doping controversy earlier this year when the promising sprinter Denis Galimzyanov tested positive for EPO in March.
Nor will it have helped Katuasha's case that in this era of post-Armstrong sensitivity they recently announced the appointment as general manager of Viatcheslav Ekimov, a man so closely associated with Lance Armstrong and the set-up at USPS.
So far there has been no official statement from the team, their website and Facebook page haven't been updated since Friday and their twitter feed @katushacycling since 14th of October. By contrast the team that replaces them in the WorldTour for next season wasted no time in getting a statement up on thier website - it's in Dutch, but we can assume that they are very happy.
Where all this leaves star riders such as Joaquim Rodriguez and Denis Menchov is open to question - it is unlikely the Russian outfit will be able to hang on to them all particlarly as they now have to wait to see if the UCI will give them Pro Continental status.
More to follow, but in the meantime here's the UCI's announcement of the 2013 teams registered to ride the WorldTour:
Registration of UCI ProTeams for the 2013 season
As of 2nd November, the UCI had registered in the first division the teams already holding a current UCI WorldTour licence and whose applications satisfied the registration conditions set out in the UCI regulations.
The following teams were concerned:
- Astana Pro Team
- BMC Racing Team
- Lampre – Merida
- Omega Pharma – Quick Step Cycling Team
- ORICA GreenEDGE
- Sky Procycling
- Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
- Movistar Team (UCI decision of 16 November)
In accordance with the UCI regulations, the Licences Commission was requested by the UCI administration to adjudicate on the refusal to register as well as the issuing of the UCI WorldTour licence to applying teams.
As a result of the hearings held on 19, 21, 22, 28 November and 7 December, the Licences Commission has issued a UCI WorldTour licence to the following teams:
- AG2R La Mondiale 2013-2016
- Euskaltel Euskadi 2013-2016
- Former Rabobank 2013-2014
- Garmin Sharp 2013-2014
- Team Argos–Shimano 2013-2016
- Team Saxo – Tinkoff 2013-2014
Finally, the Licences Commission has granted registration for the 2013 season to the following teams:
- Lotto Belisol
The request from the team Katusha for registration in first division has been rejected. In accordance with UCI regulations, this team’s application has been forwarded to the UCI administration, so that the latter may assess the possibility of registering this team as a UCI Professional Continental Team.
The full list of UCI Professional Continental Teams registered for 2013 will be announced at a later date.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.