Citing the lack of a "reglementary bank guarantee," the UCI has rejected Astana's license application. Already contradicting the UCI's report, Pat McQuaid insists it was because their application was late. Can it only be a matter of time before the UCI claims Astana is harboring weapons of mass destruction? From Lance Armstrong?
There's precious little reporting out there yet in the usual places, but you're probably wondering -- no, trying to quiet the shrieking sound of... whywhywhywhywhy?!?!?! Until we hear more details, it's hard to say, so let's engage in unfounded speculation:
- Money. Manolo Saiz gets to hang on to his license, as do the other teams you might like to relegate to the continental tour, because Pro Tour licenses come with an up-front commitment of four years of funding guarantees, or something like that. Once a team ponies up, on the promise of a license, no advanced legal system would allow their contracting position to be compromised without serious damage$.
- Inside baseball. The Astana people are talking as if they have been getting the cold shoulder from the UCI for a while now. The Kazakhs are relative outsiders to the process, and there's no shortage of clubby, establishment snobbery in the senior Cycling circuit. Is the UCI just freezing them out? Is this a move to stop the upstarts from rounding up the cash and buying their way into the Pro Tour? My money's on the previous paragraph, but you never know.
Anyway, expect this to drag on. And like any story whose headline could read "Saiz 1, __ 0" it's not going to be pretty.