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One More Poke at the UCI

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CN's latest notes contain the bizarre follow-up to the Astana license debacle, writing that Saiz may hold the license for now, but he claims his financial backing is none other than Astana, which the Kazakhs quickly shot down. It's not as complex as it sounds: Saiz claims they have a valid contract to back his team, while Astana have long claimed that they rightfully voided the contract due to the doping scandal. Who's right? Hey, go ask a judge.

Meanwhile, Astana may emerge as the key to destroying the Pro Tour once and for all, something that wouldn't happen if the Pro Tour would give them a license.

To wit:

Even if Astana are unsuccessful in their appeal to secure a ProTour licence, the possibility of them teaming up with Saiz to use his slot seems very remote. Biver told Cyclingnews that some members of the team would be happy to compete as a Continental Professional outfit in 2007, due to the fact that they can pick and choose the races on their programme rather than being held to a full ProTour schedule.

Can a team be all it wants to be in the Continental Tour, without the hassles of the Pro Tour? Think about it... all the big races have a few slots for non-Pro Tour teams, and as currently constituted Astana are going to merit invites to the Ardennes classics, all three grand tours, everything in Germany, and a few other major races. They could become a continental tour superteam, enjoying the best of the major races without the headaches of the Pro Tour.

If this happened, other teams would well take note, tempting a few of them (Bouygues? Euskies?) to give up their Pro Tour licenses and work out a deal on the side with the race organizations to get all the invites they really want. Before you know it, top teams could be conspiring with the race organizers to end-run the Pro Tour. It wouldn't take much divide-and-conquer to splinter the Pro Tour, since there are very few teams capable of taking over the licenses that would be vacated. And all because, according to Pat McQuaid, Astana got their forms in a tad late.

To reiterate, I'm not rooting for this scenario, but more and more it seems like the Pro Tour could be undone without breaking a sweat. And if it happens, the UCI deserve what they get.

OK, no more UCI rants til tomorrow at least.