It’s a competitive business cycling and not just on the road. Being granted UCI pro team status is proving to be a matter of demand exceeding supply. On 16 August the UCI announced there were 14 applications for eight licences for the season, six of them from teams that do not have pro tour status. Four applicants for pro tour licences, Bbox Bouygues Telecom (FRA), BMC Racing Team (USA), Cofidis, le credit en ligne (FRA) and Vacansoleil ProCycling Team (NED), have pro continental licences.
Two applications are from teams applying for new licences, the Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project (LUX) and Pegasus Sports which races as flyVaustralia (AUS). Henk Vogels is the Director Sportif. Pro tour status entitles a team to a starting place in the three Grand Tours of the year. Teams with pro continental licences have to compete for wild card entries. Bbox, BMC and Cofidis all gained entry to the Giro d’Italia and le Tour de France this year.
Sporting Criterion and the New Contenders
The UCI announcement stated, “only those teams fulfilling a series of very strict criteria (excellent performance in sporting terms – the most important criterion; unconditional respect of ethics; assurance of financial stability and effective administration)” will be granted a licence. The sporting criterion takes into account world rankings and performance in the tours and major events.
Of the two new contenders the Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project is a heavyweight to the Australians’ flyweight. The Luxembourg team will consist of Andy and Frank Schlek with an as yet unannounced supporting cast that may include Stuart O’Grady, Jens Voigt and Jakob Fulsang. The new junior time trial champion Bob Jungels of Luxembourg has also been mentioned by Andy Schlek. If you compare the Luxembourg team with the Australian application on the UCI’s sporting criterion the Australian team loses.
Pegasus Racing’s best result to date is Ben Day’s win at the Tour de Beauce in Canada in June, which he also won. Darren Rolfe was 2nd overall. flyVAustralia won the Team’s classification and Ben Day won the points classification to add to his overall win. These are good but not glittering results that demonstrate potential. It is also notable that none of the Australian members of the Pegasus team were selected in the Australian team for the World Championships in Geelong, Australia.
The Australian World team consists of riders already on the pro tour including 23-year-old Wesley Sulzberger of FDJ. His older brother, Bernard, races for Pegasus. The U23 Australian team, the Cyclones, were primarily drawn from Team Jayco-Skins. If it’s a competition between the two new contenders Australia loses and may have to hope they can outrank a vulnerable or similarly hopeful team.
Teams Applying for Renewals
In addition to the six teams applying for pro tour status, eight teams are applying for renewal of their existing pro tour licences, Astana, Euskadel-Euskadi, Ex-Team Milram (provisional name Velocity), FDJ, Geox on a Spanish, not Italian, licence despite its new Italian sponsor, Liquigas-Doimo, HTC Columbia and Telefonica Movistar/Abarca Sports (ESP). Astana with its loss of Alberto Contador and Telefonica with its lack of profile may be the least likely to gain renewals.
The Licence Commission will examine the files submitted by teams applying for UCI ProTour licences during the month of November. An announcement of the provisional list of teams to be awarded licences will be made on 20 November. The definitive list will be published on 10 December.
Australia has produced so many pro tour stars that it deserves a pro tour licence. Whether Pegasus Sports has the talent as yet will be determined by the UCI. Whatever the UCI’s decision some teams are going to be disappointed.