CAS: Katusha gets World Tour licence

Bryn Lennon

In a decision that will throw the World Tour into chaos, CAS overturned the UCI licensing commission's decision to deny Katusha a WT licence. The UCI will now have to figure out how to resolve the issue of having one WT team too much as the rules stipulate there can only be 18 who get the guaranteed invites.

The news from Lausanne confirmed the UCI's worst nightmare. Much of the speculation had been that Katusha would lose the appeal and that the result would be Joaquim Rodriguez using his option to leave for another team, indeed his comments yesterday seemed to strongly suggest that this was the outcome he expected. But instead CAS decided to award Katusha the licence, a ruling that is final and one that the UCI has to follow. Citing the need for a speedy resolution CAS announced the decision only today and will return with a full, grounded report of the decision within a few weeks.

This leaves the UCI in a very precarious situation. In accordance with the hard fought compromise with the race organizers the limit of World Tour teams has been set at 18 to also allow the races to invite a number of discretionary wild cards. So now if the UCI can't make nice with organizers and accommodate for 19 teams, they will theoretically have to relegate one of the teams that they have already granted a licence. If/how that is even possible now that they have been preparing their season based on the license-decision they were given long ago remains to be seen. Saxo/Tinkoff, Argos and FDJ are commonly speculated to be the "last" ones in and the likely candidates to lose out if one team does get kicked out. But then again, will that even be possible at this point?

Presumably if they have been wise, which all history up until now suggests they have not, the UCI have already been laying the groundwork to resolve this situation with race-organizers in case of this outcome. The "simplest" solution of course is that 19 teams are in the World Tour and races cut back their wild-card invites by one. In many cases it would be a non-issue as they have already given an invite to Katusha but in the case of the Giro d'Italia they have not so how do you resolve that? Additional teams means logistical problems as well as increased costs for travel and hotels etc. There is also the question of what extent of co-operation the organizers are willing to do with the UCI. It's true that relations appear better today than they did a few seasons ago but the fact remains that the current World Tour format is the result of extracted, hard fought battles between the two parties and this opens up the possibility for the races to slam the door on the UCI if they desire to do so. Chances are that any solution the UCI can arrive at, will not come free or cheap for them. Concessions will have to be made on some level no doubt, question is where? Once again it will be an interesting few days ahead as a resolution is sought before the Paris-Nice the next WT event and also one that Katusha haven't been invited too. Will we see a showdown a'la 2007again? Let's hope not.

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