2015 Team Q&A

Matteo Pelucchi IAM Cycling
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.

17 teams?
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.

MTN Qhubeka

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.

Bardiani - CSF

Sporting criteria?
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.

New Names
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.

Colombian Cycling Giro

Pro Continental
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.

What’s next?
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 Androni Giocattoli
Astana Bardiani-CSF
BMC Racing Bora-Argon 18
Cannondale Pro Cycling Bretagne-Séché
Etixx – Quick Step Caja Rural
Europcar CCC Sprandi Polsat
FDJ.fr Cofidis
Team Giant – Alpecin Cult Energy*
Katusha Drapac
Lampre-Merida IAM
Team Lotto – Jumbo MTN-Qhubeka
Lotto-Soudal Nippo-Vini Fantini*
Movistar Novo Nordisk
Orica-Greenedge Roompot Orange*
Team Sky RusVelo
Tinkoff-Saxo Topsport Vlaanderen
Trek Factory Racing UnitedHealthcare
Wanty Gobert
Yellow Fluo
* 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.

40 thoughts on “2015 Team Q&A”

  1. Thanks for the explanation. My question could be googled, but I prefer to ask those in the know:
    Which country’s lottery is Team Lotto-Jumbo’s sponsor? Surely not Belgium again?

  2. The 2 Lotto teams reminds me of when the Canadian Football League featured both the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Ottawa Rough Riders….

  3. I could be mistaken, but I thought I remembered Vaughters saying on the first TDF rest day that Garmin was still going to be a title level sponsor. Has that changed? Or was JV speaking too soon?

    For all the great cycling products Garmin has introduced in the last few years, it seems a shame if they were to back out of pro level sponsorship.

  4. You mention Lampre needs riders – I read elsewhere that they only have 8 confirmed for 2015, that seems like a rather large gap to fill in a short period of time. And I suppose one of them may or may not be Horner?

    Also, when you say that IAM or MTN-Qhubeka might be ‘persuaded’ to step up to from PCT to WT…does that mean an ‘appearance fee’ from the UCI or some other compensation for the increased costs of getting to and participating in more (overlapping) races?

    The lack of demand (it’s not a supply problem: there are plenty of capable teams) for a WT license just seems to indicate that the financial structure of the sport is off balance. IAM and MTN have enough recognizable names on their rosters to be assured many wildcard invites, essentially at a discount to WT licensees. Why then wouldn’t Tinkoff-Saxo or Sky or OPQS just opt for a PCT license – as though Contador, Froome and Cavendish wouldn’t get a TdF invite (or any other start they wanted and maybe a pile of cash to boot)? At least at this moment in time, you could take away the WT license/status and the team lineups at all the significant races would all pretty much be the same, no? Or would some teams opt out of certain races they are currently required to ride? Perhaps these are just rhetorical “What is the WT really good for?”, then I can remember it at least gave us the sight of Euskatel-Euskadi riding Paris-Roubaix 🙂 but perhaps that ultimately ruined ‘smaller’ teams like Euskatel-Euskadi.

    How much of a formality is the renewal process? It seems a bit crazy/backwards to me if that’s on a year-to-year basis while some teams are signing riders to almost-unheard-of long-term contracts (AG2R and Bardet is what I am thinking of).

    • – For the licence “persuasion”, it’s unlikely to be arm-twisting, just an invitation and sales, a “there’s a spot available for the taking, can you speak to your sponsors and tell them this will guarantee you X hours of TV coverage in return” etc.

      – It’s a formality if teams have their paperwork and finances in place and no ethical questions hanging over them.

    • Teams might like the idea of skipping certain races, but their sponsors might reduce their involvement accordingly. Probably easier to send a second-string team and a junior DS to a faraway race than it is to survive on a smaller budget for the whoel year I’d guess.

  5. even the uci acknowledge that the current setup is broken, hence the concept plans for the future – 2017 i think it was planned to all change? in the interim it is a bad look but doesn’t really change anything

  6. Perhaps you’ve covered this in an older post but how much does a UCI World Team have to pay directly to the UCI? I’m not talking about the required bank guarantee but purely fees to the UCI. How do these fees break down? Is this cost significant for teams moving to the top tier compared to the greater expenditures for salaries (for hiring more riders and staff) as well as travel? Could more teams be encouraged to step up by discounting these fees (excluding bio-passport expenses)?

    On a separate point, I would love to see top-tiered teams from Africa and South America in the near future. Expanding team geography would be a better strategy for the UCI to globalize the sport.

    • Just to add to the fees discussion, I do remember reading a while back that in the teams fees to the UCI covering AD and the bio-passport, the World Tour teams contributions include having to cover a shortfall in the funds covering the bio passport for the ProConti teams.

      INRNG, does this ring any bells with you?

  7. Nibali looks like he’s been photoshopped into that picture, like those Chinese officials inspecting the road, if anyone saw that? Wouldn’t put it past Astana!

  8. I had thought that Yellow Fluo was the new name for Vini Fantini after their doping cases of 2013, but I seem from the Pro Conti list that they’re both up there for 2015. Have they split or was I completely wrong in assuming one came from the other in the first place?

    • Complicated. The 2013 Vini Fantini team became Neri Sottoli this year but still goes under the Fluo Yellow name (and kit). The other Nippo-Fantini team is a separate team although from the same region and with some staff, but very much a different team.

  9. If the UCI feel the need to have 18 teams in the World Tour, then I feel it their obligation to invite MTN-Qhubeka. I am tired of the UCI calling them “worldtour” teams when it is basically an American and European show. Yes, the sport of cycling is dominated by Europeans, and it probably will be for a long time to come. However, there is now a team from Africa, that some most would say, have a squad that compete at a world tour level. If the UCI want to truly globalize the sport they need to have an African team in the world tour.

    • The reason MTN-Qhubeka aren’t in is not because they haven’t been invited, but because they haven’t chosen to apply.

      The UCI can’t force them to be a World Tour team if they do not wish to be.

      Also – show me where Kazakhstan and Australia are on a map of Europe…

      • PEDANTRY ALARM – a chunk of Kazakhstan is west of the Urals, the traditional continental divide in the former USSR between Europe and Asia. Presumably this is how they managed to get a switch to Europe for that popular sport where you kick a ball then fall over. So you can literally point out on a map of Europe where Kazakhstan is.

        Ethnically the Kakakhs are a hotchpotch as you might expect of an intercontinental crossroads, with a lot of what could traditionally be described as ‘European’ ethnicities, like Russians, Germans and Ukrainians.

        • Unfug. Nobody in Europe, and by Europe, I mean real Europe, considers Kazakhstan as a european country, like some “everything before Ural is Europe” nitpickers do.
          And in general, I think it’s utterly nonsense to put some kind of nationality in teams, sponsored by multinational companys.

      • Cycling is basically a euro show and Australia is a euro appendix. As to America being part of the show, Canada has two WT races (both one day shows late in the season when everyone is focused on the Vuelta and WC run up.

        If your including the US it has no WT races and to date The three big US stage races have been left off the UCI “future” calendar. An obvious power play by RCS and ASO to minimize any potential threats to their calendar.

    • And if MTNQ are genuinely interested, Douglas Ryder needs to get in touch with the UCI instead of acting like a debutant and waiting to be asked to dance.

  10. I’m kind of happy that the folly of Verbruggen/McQuaid’s WorldTour (or whatever it’s called each year) is being so well exposed. A system so poorly constructed and thought out it was doomed to fail. How much longer will Cookson and Co prolong the charade?

  11. What do Europcar gain from being WorldTour rather than ProConti and getting a wildcard invite to TdF ?

    Their sponsors are Europcar, but the French department version rather than the European-wide version, and the French department of Vendee (where’s the accent on my UK keyboard ? ;o)

    So doing TdF and French races I can see the need for, but what do they gain from going to Italy or Spain, let alone China or USA ?

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