The UCI license commission today announced the last lucky winners in the big World Tour license lottery. Dutch Argos-Shimano got the coveted spot in the big league and Garmin, Lotto-Belisol, Radioshack, Francaise de Jeux, Saxo-Tinkoff also get their licenses renewed. That means, in a surprising turn of events, Katusha are the unlucky losers for whatever reason.
The UCI had promised a decision by December 10 and it took every second that they had to announce a result very different from what most people had speculated on from the beginning. Speculation was that the decision on the last spot was between Argos and Saxo, two teams out of the top 15 in the sporting criteria ranking but they both got in at the expense of a team solidly in the top 15. Clearly some follow-up on the reasons for the decisions will be forthcoming but by definition Katusha must have failed to live up to one of the three other criteria, administrative, financial and ethical.There have been no mention of economic mismanagement or sponsorship troubles at Katusha so presumably the ethical criteria is closest at hand.
One has to wonder what information the UCI has at hand to base the decision on. The only known issues with Katusha are the raids on their Italian headquarters surrounding the Ferrari-investigation but the same types of troubles have plagued Lampre and much of their top riders and team-managers and they have gotten the all-clear, so what more is there? Several riders at Katusha are mentioned in the swiss money-laundering scheme including Ferrari's company but does the UCI have official info on this from the Italian authorities? Radioshack were also called to a hearing to clarify things before being granted a license and they managed to get renewed, despite the connections to Bruyneel, the Schleck issues etc. etc. Obviously the UCI will have to present the reasons for this quite radical decision as it's unlikely that Katusha will take this lying down. Apparently Katusha will be informed on the reasons in the coming days according to Cyclingnews Daniel Benson. It seems ridiculous that the full info on the decisions aren't made available when the announcement is made but that's about par for the course in this process that is more drawn out than a Wiggo transfer story. Let the speculation commence, owners of twitter-stock are the big winners I suppose.
Argos and Saxo-Tinkoff are clearly the big winners in all this. Speculation was that one of them would lose out but this way we will see both the team of Contador and the talented young dutch Argos team with big sprinters Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb on the World Tour next year. Lotto and FDJ are two other teams with solid 2012 seasons behind them who were also waiting on confirmation and they can now draw a sigh of relief and focus on the season ahead.
As it stands Katusha has the 2012 World Tour winning rider on their team but are without a spot in the 2013 World Tour which in itself makes you go hmmm. With Joaquin Rodriguez and an otherwise solid squad they should be virtually guaranteed entry into all WT events anyway so this is a bit of a blow for other hopeful ProConts looking for wild cards in 2013. Rumor has it though that J-Rod has not yet finalized his contract with Katusha for 2013 opening up the room for speculation that he may actually look to sign elsewhere. This seems unlikely though as part of his goal has been to secure spots for his key support-riders and who can pick up a group of riders at this late point in the game? Losing J-Rod would be disaster now for the russian team even if they perhaps have the financial muscles to wrangle invites without him. Katusha 2012 was pretty much synonymous with the efforts of Rodriguez so there would be some mighty big shoes to fill without him there, making a re-entry into the WT even harder without spending big big money once again.
Clearly we haven't heard the last of this and the soap-opera will continue in the days to come. You're never bored when the UCI is running the show, that's for sure.