2016 Team Q&A

Who is up and who’s down? In a press release issued last night 17 teams have applied for a World Tour licence in 2016 and some 20 have applied for a Pro Continental licence to ride in cycling’s second division knowing they’ll collect plenty of wildcard invitations for the big races.

No surprises but Dimension Data are not on the list for a World Tour spot but as we’ll see below, there’s a special procedure available if they, or anyone else, still fancies a promotion.

Several reader questions by email and Twitter following yesterday evening’s announcement. Here’s a Q&A on the teams, timing and more.

UCI teams for 2016

17 teams?
Yes, there are no new applicants for the World Tour in 2016 so all the existing teams are seeking a one year renewal. Get this licence and these teams ride all the races on the World Tour calendar and can be invited to others too.

Does 17 matter?
The World Tour is capped at 18 teams and having 17 won’t change the racing, there will not be fewer teams in a race. An event can just issue more wildcard invitations to Pro Continental teams to ensure a full startlist, eg 17+5 for the Tour de France instead of 18+4.

Structurally there is a problem. The World Tour is supposed to be the UCI’s prime calendar but we still we have 17 teams chasing 18 places. Many prefer the second division knowing they can still ride the top races. They’re like passengers booking economy tickets knowing the premium cabin is so empty there’s a good chance they’ll get upgraded to first class throughout the season.

Is there room for an 18th team?
Yes. There was talk of MTN-Qhubeka, to be renamed Dimension Data, joining the World Tour but they’re on the Pro Conti list. There’s still a chance to move up as this rule makes clear:

IAM Cycling used this last year to make a late bid for a World Tour licence. Whether Dimension Data needs to move up is another question, they got plenty of invites this year, won and animated many races and with Mark Cavendish they’ll have even greater chances of being invited where they like.

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.

What’s happening to the World Tour in 2016?
Not much, it’ll be a lot like 2015. It’s in 2017 that the UCI reforms are coming with teams being awarded three year licences, although presumably with some annual checks.

New Names
The UCI press release mentions Cannondale Pro Cycling Team but this doesn’t signal Garmin is walking away: this time last year the UCI’s list also mentioned Cannondale Pro Cycling Team and during 2015 we knew this as Cannondale-Garmin. What seems more likely is that Tinkoff team listed is just that, “Tinkoff” which is signalling Saxo Bank finally leave the sport, following the exit of Bjarne Riis and also Lars Seier Christensen, co-founder of Saxo Bank and cycling supporter, has stepped down from the company too.

Among the Pro Continental ranks is Team Tharcor, a mysterious name but it’s Team Southeast. Is it because the squad is being registered offshore again? There is a “Tharcor Limited” registered as a company in Ireland and the team, in previous incarnations, has used a registered office in Britain to dodge Italian payroll taxes, perhaps they’ve gone Irish now?

Also Europcar become Direct Energie and Bretagne-Séché Environment become Fortuneo-Vital Concept (an online bank and a farm supplies company).

New applicants
“Roth-Skoda” and “Delko Marseille Provence KTM” are new for 2016. Both are continental teams wanting to move up. It’s a substantial leap, arguably more than going from Pro Conti to World Tour as it means going from almost unregulated to suddenly meeting a range of UCI rules on staffing, budgets and more.

Colombian Cycling Giro

Missing, inaction
Several teams are missing from the UCI’s press release. Team Colombia are not there for example but they weren’t last year either but still got a licence to ride for 2015, perhaps they’ve got paperwork problems again? The same for Drapac who have completed their paperwork now but didn’t sort the bank guarantee in time for the UCI so they were missing off the list.

Polish and British Continental teams ActiveJet and One Pro Cycling are also said to be looking to move up but are not on the list. Again there’s time to sort the paperwork out.

That’s not very professional is it?
The UCI’s list is publicly shaming those who did not get their paperwork in on time. The admin requires a deadline but it seems teams can miss the deadline and still qualify, in other words the timetable is flexible. There has to be better way to do this for the both the UCI and the teams.

Is there a cap of Pro Continental teams?
No, only the World Tour imposes a maximum of 18 teams. For cycling’s “second division” there’s no limit on the number of teams. None of them qualify automatically to ride a race, they are all invitees to a race.

What does it cost?
For 2016 the cash fee is €76,125 for a World Tour team; €16,000 for a Pro Conti team. There are more costs involved like a bank guarantee to cover the wage bill and all the costs of complying with the rules.

What’s next?
The UCI will evaluate the applications and there will be more news later this month or in early November for those with clean files. If there’s anything awkward or complicated some teams might see the process continue into December.

A lot of technical issues above but 2016 is going to look a lot like 2015. There’s still time for a team to consider joining the World Tour but the cost vs. benefit isn’t so obvious. What’s welcome is seeing more teams for the Pro Conti ranks and it’ll be even more encouraging if additional teams come good with the paperwork to swell the ranks further.

Any more questions on the teams for 2016? Ask below in the comments.

74 thoughts on “2016 Team Q&A”

  1. Thanks for the Q&A INRNG.

    If Drapac, Colombia (although there is doubt about their finances apparently), One Procycling and Active Jet are all added to the list, and if all Pro Conti applications are successful, there will be 24 Pro Conti teams in 2016, up from 20 this year, a very healthy leap. Dimension Data moving up to World Tour would see the numbers go down to 23 of course.

    I agree it seems very archaic to publish the list at this stage. Teams that apply could be unsuccessful. And other teams can still submit their paperwork later and be successful.

    And it also feels very late in the day for the UCI to be deciding which teams can race World Tour and Pro Conti in 2016. Surely making these decisions much earlier in the year would help teams plan better, in terms of sponsorship, logistics and team rosters?

    • It is very late to decide this and in the past some teams have had to wait until December to get their licence sorted through the regular process, meaning they could not even order team kit as the jerseys have to have the UCI World Tour logos on them nor plan for the team because they don’t know if they’re automatically riding all three grand tours or not. It’d be better if all this could be brought forward.

      • Yes, teams should have the opportunity to apply, and be confirmed, earlier. But the window should remain open for teams to apply until relatively late, in cases where they are still putting their sponsorship and finances in place.

      • Is it that late? In a normal league system, with promotion and relegation, this wouldn’t be finalised until the end of the season when you knew which teams were going down. The World Tour season only finished on Sunday, so this has come out within a few days of the end of the season.

        • Yes, but this isn’t yet a list of who is in or who is out. It’s just a list of who has applied. Confirmation won’t happen until a later date.

  2. I believe the Italian/Irish team registration practice has been used in the past. I seem to recall Ceramica-Flaminia, De Rosa-Stac Plastic/Utensilnoord and Colnago CSF/Bardiani all had Irish addresses at some stage.

    • Good question, I’ll edit the above to drop this info in. The cash fee is €76,125 for a World Tour team; €16,000 for a Pro Conti team. On top of this there are more costs like contributions to the bio passport scheme, bank guarantees for the wage bill (a huge cost) and the compliance cost of all the regulations.

      • If I could add to this, the WT teams licence fees are also used to help subsidise the cost of the ABP for the ProConti level. Its not necessarily fair, but the sums raised just from the ProConti licenses leave the UCI with a shortfall when it comes to budget for the ABP program across the PC level

  3. From a British perspective, it would be good to see One Pro Cycling join the Pro Conti ranks so quickly.
    Do you know if they’ve pulled in extra sponsors for this or are they sticking to the fan membership model ?
    Is there a minimum financial level for Pro Conti status ?

  4. Apparently the Colombia thing could have something to do with the funds they receive from Colombian government and the fact that the Colombian state budget has still to pass in Parliament. Not sure though, it’s more a rumour I’ve read.

  5. Moving up from Continental to Pro-Continental means adhering to stricter rules, costs more and still does not automatically qualify the team for any races. What’s the upside? Eligibility for World Tour races?

    Peculiar sport, cycling. What other sport has teams opting to stay out of the sport’s top tier? Maybe time for the UCI to relent on the demands on World Tour teams?

  6. I am assuming that Astana at one time had a Pro-Continental development team because they were snagged in doping problems. Has this team now disappeared, or were they competing at a lower level ?

        • y’know, in a way, i admire vino for his gigantic “middle finger” to the rest of the world…

          i can’t say with certainty that i wouldn’t do anything differently than he does…

          • Surely, at the very least, you wouldn’t call your team ‘ccotenj4ever’?

            Vino’s ego is massively out of control. What would we think of Wiggins if he’d called his team Wiggo4Ever?

          • Cookson’s ego is worse with nothing to back it up other than successful political shenanigans. And, didn’t Wiggins (his ego is, deservedly, size XXL also, right?) basically do just that? Good for him too; I remember when he was kicked around for a couple of years for no good reason as well.

          • @j evans….

            lol… nah, i’d call it “team unrepentant doper4ever”… just to tick people off… and to REALLY tick them off, i’d figure out some way to sign valverde to it… 🙂

            oh, there is zero doubt that vino’s ego is out of control… that’s part of what makes it so amusing, there is no 0ne who can keep it in check… if anything, his ego is constantly being fed…

            as far as wiggins… we’d just think it was his normal “sir brad being a tool” condition… 🙂

          • I’ve had a go previously at Wiggins for the team name – I can see what people mean when they argue that it’s a useful marketing thing, etc., but it still grates on me. However, it is quite a step from that to ‘4Ever’.
            Love the Valverde idea ccotenj.

          • @inrng… very true… the fact that he is very visible and funded is ample proof that he holds significant sway…

            when i say “amusing”, it’s not that i find him personally a joke, it’s the whole “sideshow of vino” (his giant middle finger, and the bile it brings forth in some)… which is why i also wanted to sign valverde to my hypothetical team…

            full disclosure: i was (and remain) a vino fan…

  7. Nice piece, thanks. While it’s great that non-cycling interests like Dimension Data and Lidl are wading into the waters of pro cycling, the 17 teams fighting over 18 places in the World Tour makes the WT look like what it is…a bad joke. If they insist on something called the World Tour they should cut it down to an even dozen squads and make the requirements for membership really reflect top teams who’ll meet serious criteria for inclusion. Otherwise, what’s the point, other than collecting an extra euro 60,000?

    • Why does it matter, really? The races will be full with the best teams, wild card teams will be picked, predominately, because they have the best (Pro Conti) riders. So, the show will be as good as it could be, regardless. It’s a niche sport. And, honestly, thank goodness for that.

      There is an argument that 17 teams will be even better for the fans because of the variety.

    • They are not going Pro Conti anymore (not sure why) and there is some doubt whether they will even by Continental (or even continue) next year. They’ve lost ‘star’ names like Steel Von Hoff (to One Pro Cycling) and Eddie Dunbar (to Axeon), so the future does not look good for them.

    • It generally isn’t worth US teams going ProConti. The sponsors are broadly only interested in the US market, and teams can gain entry to the top US races at the Continental level, so there is little incentive to go through the extra hoops, and find the extra cash, to go up a level. I’d imagine this is the case for Axeon too.

      • yea agree… there’s not a benefit to them moving up to the proconti level, it would bring more expense and it would not provide more racing opportunities…

        i don’t see why any usa-based continental team would ever want to move up to proconti at this point… short of a long-range plan (along with equally long-range financial backing) to go world tour eventually, it makes no sense to move up a level…

    • Axel’s MO is to develop riders to making that step up to WT or even PC. His riders ‘graduate’ at the end of the season in which they hit their 23rd birthday IIRC. With his name, his team’s reputation and the fearless way in which his team ride in even the biggest US races seemingly irrespective of who he has on his roster, his team get into whichever US races they want. He’s not so concerned about a big European program so isn’t chasing the sponsorship and funds to make that happen.

    • It was a much bigger budget shortfall, well into six figures. The UCI took the view they didn’t have the funds needed to cover all the wages and then embark on a full season of racing all three grand tours and more with all the costs this involves.

  8. Nice look forward too the new year thanks Inrng.

    Geoff B, Why do you think that United Health Care is in the Pro-Conti ranks?
    They are a US team, correct?

    They are not going to sell medical insurance in Europe!!

    • It’s strange to see UHC in the pro-conti, they spend most of their time over in the US and almost never race in Europe, none of their riders finished lombrdia, it almost seems pointless

      • UHC actually raced a lot in Europe during the spring. Roubaix, Fleche Wallone, Criterium Intl. No real results but they have a couple ex-world tour guys and one future WT guy (Kiel).

    • It does seem an odd one given that the sponsor operates in the US only as far as I understand. They have some European kit sponsors, such as Wilier who provide the bikes, but that’s as far as it goes.

      The initial reason for going Pro Conti was as a stepping stone to becoming a World Tour team. And supposedly the UHC wanted to be seen as leader globally not just in the US:


      But I haven’t heard anything more recently about the team deciding to make the step up to World Tour, and as you say, the squad doesn’t seem close to being competitive at that level.

  9. Less riders per race would be quite good, actually. Less jobs for riders in the short term, sure, but more attractive racing, methinks, pelotons safer from mass crashes, and, most crucially, more financially sustainable races, which should lead to more races.

  10. okay so if i was Dimension Data i would totally stay Pro-Conti. With the year they’ve had, they’re gonna get an invite to everything. Throw in Cav and theyre definitely gonna get an invite to everything. All of which raises problems with the World Tour/Pro Conti system and might cause more teams to try and do this to save costs.

    Although, I may be missing some fundamental reason why its better to be World Tour over pro-conti if it is assumed that your 99% likely to get invites to all the top races…

    • Setting the teams you’re inviting several months before the race, when the season barely started, while you’re deciding/publishing the course hardly a few weeks before… How crazy is that?
      How does RCS expect the teams to seriously consider Lombardia as a task on its own right if they can’t know if it’s suited to their riders until the very last moment? I like the changing course, but organisers should really make an effort to reveal it in advance. And, considering how much does the whole season weighs on the riders’ state of form, it really doesn’t make sense to decide whom you’re inviting that long before.
      Obviously, they need to include Lombardia’s invitations along with the others because, from a ‘political’ POV, they form a whole, like: “look I didn’t invite you here, but I’ll call you there”, and so on. Sort of a consolation prize in terms of invitations. IMHO, sheer nonsense.
      Vegni, whom I appreciate a lot as a course designer and so, declared some time ago that he thinks that Sanremo is the *big* race, whereas Lombardia really isn’t *that important* in his perspective. A pity, and a serious strategic error I hope they’ll correct in time.
      The Monuments aren’t that many, can’t be created *as such* in less than several decades (!), hence RCS shouldn’t absolutely go on devaluating a huge asset they’re lucky enough to be managing. Especially from an international POV, Lombardia is one of the race with the greatest potential… just think about two factors: the scenery and, even more important, it’s one of the few Classics where GT champions, well known by the wider public, might have an option to shine (especially since that’s becoming less and less true for the Liège, comparing the last 5 years with the previous 10).

      • RCS has been a joke since Zomegnan was forced out. Cincenzo Torriani’s got to be doing 360’s in his grave. The whole damn thing seems to be run based on social media polling rather than any passion for the heritage of the sport. RCS owns TWO monuments in addition to La Corsa Rosa. I wish they would act like people entrusted with sacred treasures of cycling rather than some 20-somethings with new toys. BRING BACK ZOMEGNAN!!!

          • Talking of RCS and jokes – temps hitting over 50C in the Abu Dhabi Tour today I read.
            That is just crazy.
            People should not be racing in heat like that.

          • This time, next year, they’ll be racing the Worlds ’round there.
            Bringing the (willing) peloton there to make some easy cash (both RCS and the peloton itself… guess teams and riders are getting their bonuses, too) with a toy race is a thing, a joke let’s say, but the Worlds is a whole different level of pulling a prank.
            Will UCI apply the Extreme Weather Protocol if it was to mean suspending their personal ATM?

          • It isn’t a joke, it makes me angry. The whole time teams and riders tell us how hard and dangerous everything is, but suddenly it is ok to race under these conditions after a long season. Even riders out of shape like Kittel, have to ride. The riders make themselves and their complaints totally unbelievable. How shall we take them serious any longer? Everything around that “race” makes me angry. I don’t watch it and I’ll read no interview and no article about it. I can’t escape the headlines unfortunately.

          • Zomegnan, just like Torriani tried to put some spectacle into the Giro and likely did act like a dictator at times, same as Torriani. Instead we have RCS run these days by social-media mavens who spend too much time listening to too many people rather than pursuing a passionate vision of what sport can be. They’re also too interested in easy money doled out by oil barons as this “race” in October in a desert in 127 F heat demonstrates.

          • The UCI website states “the [extreme weather] protocol involves notably the compulsory convening of a meeting between the stakeholders (organisation including race doctor and chief of security, riders, teams, President of the Commissaires Panel,) when extreme weather conditions are anticipated prior to the start of a stage. This meeting can be convened at the request of any one of the named representatives.”
            If on-the-bike temperatures (i.e. in the sun) are really hitting 50C, does anyone know if this meeting has taken place in Abu Dhabi? And if so, have the representatives agreed it is safe to race? Or has it been decided prior that the Extreme weather protocol would not be ‘tested’ in Abu Dhabi? And if so, why not?

  11. Hi,

    Do you know the size of the bank guarantees the team needs to get for the ProConti and World Tour levels?

    Also, what are the lowest ranked races ProConti and World Tour teams can participate in?

    I was wondering why norwegian team Joker (CT) didn’t apply for a PCT license, but it might be they won’t be able to do *.2 races as a ProConti team?

    • The bank guarantee is a function of the size of the wage bill and other debts, it’s usually a large six figure sum in Euros for a Pro Conto team.

      As for participation, WT teams can do WT, HC and .1 races, PC teams can do WT, HC, .1 and .2 races.

  12. My personal view is that World Tour teams should be limited to a maximum of 15 and preferably less. The advantage of this would be:
    – It would encourage top riders to spread out over a larger number of teams rather than all congregating in one of the WT teams. For example, the racing would better if the riders on Sky, Etixx, Movistar or Astana’s were racing against each other rather than seeing top riders just acting as domestiques.
    – It would give more opportunities to up and coming to compete and challenge in bigger races.
    – Would likely give more chance to teams and riders from other countries encouraging the spread of cycling to a wider part of the world.
    – Would ensure all teams at each major race are committed to racing it rather than just showing up because hey have to meet their WT obligations.

    • I’m not sure that would work, you’d have nine riders at, say, the Dauphiné and another nine at the Tour de Suisse, meaning you need 18 as a minimum just to comply but also more to cover injuries, to allow riders to rest and more.

  13. Great article and analysis. Between you and CyclingTips.au you are my go to for cycling news/analysis and basically blow any other site ala Velonews, Cyclingnews and Cyclingquotes out of the water.

    Just no BS and honest analysis and quality info.

    Thank you for pain free the pain free cycling site

  14. Why isn’t there a Team Red Bull in pro-cycling. They sponsor everything else
    Maybe there is an opening for Red Bull competitors to get in first

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