Morne de Klerk
Got 18 spots for 19 teams? Maybe the teams can work this out.
One solution to the mess created by the UCI and its ridiculous decision to go ahead and award 18 World Tour licenses while Katusha's appeal (for what would be and now is a clusterf!king 19th license) is to find a way to subtract one of those teams from each race. Now, by stating this in passive voice, I have avoided saying that this represents a solution to anyone besides me. But I've got the pen, so let's put my plan into action!
IMHO there are plenty of races teams would rather not staff. So rather than kicking out a team from each race, maybe the race organizers can politely ask all 19 teams if there's anyone who'd rather RSVP "no". It would be totally voluntary, and if there is more than one volunteer, first one received will be honored. And if no volunteers step forward, we will nominate one. Oh, and every team has to miss at least one. We can't just keep skipping over Euskaltel in the classics. Let's run through this.
- Tour Down Under: Um, I'm gonna go with Katusha here, since it's aready done and they missed it.
- Paris-Nice: Cannondale. Tirreno will draw all the Italians in, so Paris-Nice is considered the short straw for the Italian teams. Of course, you could toss Lampre in here, but we need to kick them out of much more important events, so let's get Sagan's exclusion out of the way.
- Tirreno-Adriatico: Corollary to the Paris-Nice logic. I'll go with FDJ here, as the French team with the fewest Italians (0).
- Milano-Sanremo: The monuments are all tough to miss, and I wouldn't rule out a scenario where 19 teams are allowed in anyway. But if we have to cross out someone, I think I'll go with Sky. Thought about Saxo, but with Bennati in the fold that might sting a bit. Also, if Sky complain, it wouldn't be impertinent to ask them about their treatment of Cavendish last year. Maybe sprinters are an asset after all?
- Volta a Catalunya: One theme from the spring is that if you think Spanish teams might be willing to miss the Classics, it's just as true that Low Country teams might not be too broken up about passing on a week in Spain. I'll go with Lotto Belisol. It's between them and Vacansoleil as to who will truly miss the more useful Pais Vasco more. Raphael Valls vs. JVDB. You're welcome Jurgen.
- E3 Harelbeke: This is for Flanders contenders seeking warmup miles, which eliminates a number of teams. I'm gonna throw Movistar off the bus here. Between this and the sprintier G-W, they shouldn't argue much.
- Gent-Wevelgem: First of many possible No-Lampre races. Pippo can have his training session at E3, and take a pass on G-W.
- Tour of Flanders: Obviously nobody is going to volunteer here, so we will have to make a tough decision. That's why they pay me the... nevermind. La-la-la... AG2R. Astana can exhale now.
- Pais Vasco: Vacansoleil. See Catalunya.
- Paris-Roubaix: Euskaltel. I get that they brought in a classics guy, but he can hone his skills on the comparatively tame Flanders stones for a year.
- Amstel Gold: If Rabobank were still around, I might be tempted to do them a favor. This isn't my favorite decision but with no obvious teams to axe, I'll go with Orica-GreenEdge. Not much for local talent besides Weening. Obviously holding Gerrans out is the big dilemma, but like I said, there aren't any obvious teams to cut. Garmin narrowly saved its spot here with some better placings last year.
- Fleche Wallonne: Another very tough call but... Saxo-Tinkoff. Bert is the main attraction, but he's not a big classics guy, and there's still one left if he's interested.
- Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Argos-Shimano. This isn't exactly a sprinters' race.
- Tour de Romandie: Take a break, Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
- Giro d'Italia: Any team that misses a grand tour gets a pass the rest of the season. Enjoy it well, Blanco. And send a killer team to Cali.
- Criterium du Dauphine: Time to start picking on teams who haven't sat yet. Adios BMC. Shouldn't you be going all-in at the Tour de Suisse anyway?
- Tour de Suisse: Garmin. They're a tough team to exclude because their organizational philosophy is to be at least pretty good at everything. So this is as painless an exclusion as I could find.
- Tour de France: Nobody. For two reasons. One, the Tour is everything. And two, if we were to go back in time and pull the UCI Licensing Committee's head out of its ass, wouldn't they have just turned down one of the teams in line for a Tour wildcard anyway? But if you really had to pick someone, I'd go with Lampre.
- Clasica San Sebastian: Adios Astana. You were the only team not excluded yet.
- Poland: Might get multiple volunteers here. Let's go back to a Spanish outfit. Since Euskaltel outperformed them last year here, I'll take Movistar.
- ENECO: Close call but Euskaltel were slightly more invisible here last year than Lampre, if that's possible.
- Vuelta a Espana: ugh... Cannondale. Sagan, their star, isn't a likely Worlds winner, and if he needs to train, the Canadian races and Ouest France are great for him. Chances are, they would be OK with passing on the Vuelta, as much as anyone. And out of fairness to them, I might go back and force Astana out of Paris-Nice.
- Vattenfall: Oh, I'd say Lampre should be pretty hopeless at this point.
- GP Ouest-France: Another team for all seasons but that has to sit at some point... BMC. Gilbert likes to use the Vuelta to prepare anyway.
- GP Quebec: Katusha. This whole mess was your fault anyway.
- GP Montreal: Katusha. Package deal.
- TTT Worlds: Nobody. Obviously more teams isn't a problem.
- Lombardia: Easy one: Argos-Shimano. Name one rider who can win here.
- Beijing: I'm sure they'll be plenty of volunteers. Since this race is mostly a marketing creation, I'll take the team who's least in need of more marketing: Sky. My guess is they're pretty self-sustaining these days.