Analysis: How UCI’s Licence Commission could strip Saxo Bank of its ProTeam licence
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Analysis: How UCI’s Licence Commission could strip Saxo Bank of its ProTeam licence

by Shane Stokes at 3:56 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Contador’s team may be demoted after today’s CAS ruling

Contador RiisThe decision last year by Bjarne Riis to put so many eggs in the Alberto Contador basket may yet prove costly for the team, with the UCI warning today that the squad could potentially be demoted to Pro Continental level.

As VeloNation pointed out last October, a sanction for Contador could put Riis in a very tough position indeed. Back then a UCI source told VeloNation that article 2.15.040 §2 could be enforced if he was suspended.

The wording of that rule states that “the licence commission may withdraw the licence…if the information taken into account in granting the licence or the registration of the UCI ProTeam has changed such that the issue conditions are no longer fulfilled, or the commission considers that the new situation does not justify the issue of a licence or registration.”

The UCI confirmed this today after CAS ruled against Contador, stating on its website that the UCI would ask the licence commission to rule on whether or not the team should retain its place in the WorldTour. “If the points obtained by Alberto Contador, representing approximately 68% of the Saxo Bank-Sungard team's total points, are disregarded, his team would no longer be considered to fulfil the sporting criterion required for the UCI WorldTour,” it stated.

UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani gave further details to VeloNation today. “Because the disqualification of Alberto Contador means that the team will lose a lot of points, the UCI will ask the licence commission to set up a new hearing,” he said, responding to questions sent after this morning’s CAS ruling.

“Our rules say that if there is a major change in the financial, sporting or ethical aspect, that the UCI can at any moment ask the licence commission to review the position of the team.

“At the time of the registration of the team last year, due to the fact that the Alberto Contador affair was already running, they were told that it would be possible for the licence commission to re-examine the situation if a decision to disqualify him would occur. The team was aware of this: they said from the beginning that the team should bear in mind that its position could be reviewed at any time.”

That moment has now come to pass, and Riis has a nervous time ahead as he awaits the decision.

How the situation developed:

Rather than having the chance to gather their own points, strong riders such as Richie Porte, Daniel Navarro and Jesus Hernandez were utilised last season as high-ranking domestiques to back the Spaniard in his bid to take the Giro-Tour double. It’s normal that a team should support its strongest rider, but taking on the goal of trying to win two tough Grand Tours was a huge task and one which affected not only the leader, but also those riders who did both races.

Contador succeeded in the first of those Grand Tours but had to be content with fifth overall in the second. As was the case with the Spaniard himself, Porte and the other riders were fatigued in the Tour and didn’t perform as might be expected.

The tactic looked to have been a solid one when Contador clocked up 471 points, thanks to results such as first in the Giro d’Italia and Volta a Catalunya plus fifth in the Tour. It was enough to put him third overall behind Philippe Gilbert and Cadel Evans in the final WorldTour standings.

However with today’s news that all of Contador’s results since the 2010 Tour de France have been stripped, the team is left looking very bare.

Only seven other riders from the team registered in the final WorldTour rankings. Tour of Flanders winner Nick Nuyens was best of those in 44th place, gathering 101 points. Chris Anker Sorensen (59th, 80 points) and Juan Jose Haedo (99th, 34 points) were the only other riders inside the top 150.

Porte, who was one of the most exciting neo-pros in 2010, only clocked up ten, finishing 152nd in the standings. That haul reflects how much of his energy he gave to Contador in the Giro and the Tour, plus other races. Baden Cooke clocked up three points, Jonas Jorgensen had two and Gustav Larsson gathered just one.

The team finished ninth with 696 points. Contador’s 471 represents a staggering 67.6% of Saxo Bank’s total haul. As a rough estimation, deducting these leaves just 225 points and puts the team far below eighteenth-placed Vacansoleil-DCM, which had 369.

Porte, Cooke and Larsson left at the end of the year, taking fourteen points with them. Of the nine signings Riis made, only one of those – Sergio Paulinho – was in the WorldTour ranking, and brought just one solitary point to the team.

That’s a rough calculation, of course. Stripping Contador’s points will see some other riders from several teams move up a place in each of those races. In addition, the calculation of a team’s worth is more complex than simply totting up the WorldTour points. To give two examples, only 15 riders count in assessing a team’s position in the hierarchy of teams, and also riders who come on board from outside the WorldTour have points value from the UCI’s Europe Tour and others. This explains teams signing riders from countries like Iran.

It’s hard to be specific about the source of all the points as the UCI does not publicise the way it makes the calculations.

What’s clear, though, is that the team’s value completely hinged around Contador, with riders who could otherwise have clocked up points for the team sacrificing themselves for him. Without his haul, the team’s ranking level is very sparse indeed.

Riis, Contador and possibly others from the team will speak at a press conference tomorrow in Pinto. The Dane is fighting to safeguard his team, but it’s hard to know what he can do to influence the licence commission. There’s little scope to gain points at this time of the year and, even if he does, it’s hard to see how he could make up even a fraction of what Contador’s suspension takes away.

He’ll simply have to wait, and pray. “I can’t say when it will be done, but in a couple of days the licence commission will ask Saxo Bank to come in,” said Carpani. “They will listen and they will take a decision.

“It’s worth noting that this decision will be an independent one made by the licence commission. It is not the UCI who will decide to maintain or lose the licence. It’s up to them.”

With the licence comes the right to ride events such as the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a España and all the other WorldTour events. If Riis is to remain part of that setup, he’ll have to hope that the commission considers the rest of the team to be at the required level to fight for decent results. Otherwise, he’ll be on the outside looking in, and scrabbling for invites to the big races.

One thing is certain; the situation is a profound turnaround from where the team was prior to today’s CAS decision.


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