Looks like my beloved Giro d'Italia is getting just as nasty as those ASO creeps... today comes word that RCS have essentially upped the ante on the Grand Tour-Pro Tour showdown, adding their slate (Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Giro) to the list of races snubbing Unibet, and giving an opt-out from these races to Rabobank, Caisse d'Epargne and Gerolsteiner.
Regarding the former point, everyone's making an example of Unibet, insisting that the 18 teams carrying over from last year's Pro Tour are the only automatic entries, while Astana (#20) keeps getting wildcards. Not so for unlucky #19. Unlike the stupid French controversy over advertising on-line gambling -- a spat that garnered Unibet a threefold increase in its exposure by my guess -- this one is real. I'm not aware of what legal angle Unibet itself has to claim a right to participate; the UCI would have to make a claim, and my understanding is that there has never been agreement (re. contract) on any more than the list of 18. And I don't see the other teams going on strike for Unibet.
But this new wrinkle could result in more drastic action, unless the three teams decide to play nice and make it go away. Apparently Cd'E, Rabo and Gerolsteiner are being singled out for claiming they have a right to participate, in response to a letter from RCS saying that while they're invited they don't have to attend. [Pro Tour: everyone races everywhere; Grand Tours: give teams options]. I expect this will go away. If I were one of these title sponsors, I'd be on the phone to the team telling them they'd better send a nice letter and get their ass to the start line. But if something happens and RCS tries to exclude one of these headliner teams... I dunno, it could precipitate the rider strike that's looking increasingly necessary.