It’s official: 17 Teams are chasing 18 World Tour Places as the likes of IAM Cycling and MTN-Qhubeka prefer, for now, to stay in cycling’s second division knowing they’ll collect plenty of wildcard invitations. No surprises but several reader questions by email and Twitter following today’s announcement. Here’s a Q&A on the teams, timing and more.
Yes, the merger of Garmin and Cannondale means two teams become one and there are no new applicants.
No Alonso then?
Certainly not. What was supposed to be a glossy superstar team to put the pro in professional has ended up looking decidely amateurish. Cyclingtips catalogues the delusions and illusions.
Why the shortage of teams?
The world is full of cycling teams but not enough want to join the top tier. It’s expensive, see A Shortage of Teams for the World Tour? for the full story or just remember a World Tour licence is expensive: why would teams pay up when they’ll get a wildcard invite to the Tour de France and other big races anyway? See Cofidis which has no business in Italy but will be sure of invites to plenty of other big races thanks to Nacer Bouhanni, the same for MTN-Qhubeka with Edvald Boasson-Hagen. In short teams know they can ride premium races without paying for a premium licence.
What difference will 17 teams make?
The purely practical difference is we’ll have “17+5” for races like the Tour de France, 17 automatic teams and five wildcards. This is instead of “18+4”. It gives local races more chance to invite who they want but it’s not going to the racing.
It does dent the UCI’s prime calendar. The UCI resembles an airline that sells seats in a first class cabin and if it can’t fill the cabin, it invites passengers from economy to turn left. Once passengers learn this they’ll opt for an economy ticket and hope for an upgrade. It means less money for the UCI.
Is there room for an 18th team?
Yes. Rule 2.15.014 says applications submitted after the normal cut-off date “shall not be considered unless the maximum number of licences has not been reached“. Since we haven’t got the maximum of 18 teams it’s still possible an extra team like MTN-Qhubeka or IAM Cycling asks, or is persuaded, to move up.
Are the 17 licences automatic?
No. Some teams can be granted a licence for several years but they are still subject to annual review. The UCI has four criteria: sporting, ethical, administrative and financial and a team with a multi-year licence still has to meet these. As long as it meets these basic criteria renewal is automatic. Everyone else sees their file go in front of the UCI’s Licence Commission for a more detailed review. They famously ejected Katusha once leading to a legal battle to get the Russian tour back in.
Normally teams are ranked based on points earned by their five best riders. But given 17 teams want to fill 18 places there’s no contest. There’s no relegation, the lowest-ranked team can’t be ejected. It’s possible for a World Tour team to be ranked lower than a Pro Conti team.
Team Europcar have not won a single World Tour race and only took one win in an HC-rated event, their other wins come from .1 rated events and a national championship. Then again they could be funded from what Tinkoff-Saxo spend on two riders and there’d be change.
Can we have fewer than 17 teams?
Yes. The licence commission can reject teams. They could get upset with Astana given the two EPO positives and the possible reheated case of Roman Kreuziger just as they blocked Katusha. Meanwhile Lampre-Merida have had an exodus of riders need some incoming riders to meet the minimum requirements. There’s time to resolve all of this.
Any other changes?
Italy is down to just one UCI WorldTeam with Lampre-Merida. We’ve got used to Movistar being the sole Spanish team in the World Tour, now we’ll have to get used to one Italian team. A decade ago four Italian teams rode the Tour de France alongside four Spanish teams.
What’s a UCI WorldTeam?
The new name for a UCI ProTeam or what everyone else calls a World Tour team. The subject of the labels was a topic last January and the UCI’s still confusing us with the invention of new terms but at least “WorldTeam” is closer to World Tour team.
Garmin-Sharp + Cannondale = Cannondale Pro Cycling Team. We’ll have to wait for more news but for now this is the name of merger between Garmin-Sharp and Cannondale. Merger is a loaded word, it’s very much a takeover by Slipstream. OPQS will be called Etixx-Quick Step. In case you think they do electronic tickets, Etixx do sports nutrition and are a brand owned by Omega Pharma. Belgian rivals Lotto-Belisol become Lotto-Soudal. Belkin becomes Team Lotto-Jumbo.
There’s no big news here either. The UCI is reviewing 19 teams including new applications from existing Continental teams Cult Energy and Nippo-Vini Fantini plus new squad Roompot Orange Cycling.
Team Colombia are not on the UCI’s list, they blame paperwork problems.
Is there a shortage of Pro Continental teams?
No because only the World Tour imposes a maximum of 18 teams. For cycling’s “second division” there’s no limit on the number of teams.
The UCI will evaluate the applications and there will be more news later this month and in early November. In the case of anything requiring more explanation some teams might see the process continue into December.
|UCI World Tour
|UCI Continental Pro
|AG2R La Mondiale
|Cannondale Pro Cycling
|Etixx – Quick Step
|CCC Sprandi Polsat
|Team Giant – Alpecin
|Team Lotto – Jumbo
|Trek Factory Racing
|* New applicants
A lot of technical issues above mask the simple fact that 2015 is going to look a lot like 2014. 17 teams and 18 places doesn’t mean the World Tour is broken but it does suggest a mechanic is needed.
Any more questions on the teams for 2015? Ask below in the comments.