As riders lay out their kits, give their legs a final touch up, and otherwise prepare for the opening of the ProTour season, one ProTour team kit is still in the suitcase. Instead, the Unibet.com team has chosen suits and briefcases as their equipment of choice.
That’s because in the cease fire that allowed 19 of the ProTour teams to come down from the fence where they have been stuck since the UCI and ASO began using Paris-Nice as the battle ground for their ongoing spat for total control of cycling.
The last team, Unibet.com is still not allowed to race in any of the Grand Tour events despite having received a ProTour license. Sticking to their promise to only invite 18 teams from the ProTour and then 4 wild cards of their choosing, the Grand Tours have decided that no wild card will be given to Unibet.com for the 11 ProTour events organized by the Grand Tours. The other ProTour team, Astana was given wild card status to the various Grand Tour events.
So, off to court goes Unibet.com who has defused the current excuse of not allowing foreign gambling operations to advertise in France. Unibet.com has offered to wear kits with logos of their other sponsors and remove Unibet.com wherever there is a concern. Unibet has already raced and won in France while wearing a “modified” kit.
The Grand Tours have not budged. The current argument is that Unibet.com was given their ProTour license on December 16 which was after the lineups of the Grand Tour races were set. I never knew they planned that far in advance. Of course, Unibet is not buying this ruse.
“As we are a ProTour team, if we are not allowed to enter the ProTour races then the competition is not valid and we will be damaged. If we can’t start a certain races, we can’t get points.” said Unibet GM Koen Terryn
Angelo Zomegnan head of RCS Sport which runs four ProTour events including the Giro d’Italia put it as bluntly as possible.
“We do not form part of the ProTour system. We have contacted the best 18 teams in the world but, in regards to the Grand Tours, we are able to invite another four teams via wild cards. For us the license system is dead.”
And of course Unibet.com is following the cardinal rule of lawsuits. “When in doubt, sue everyone.”
“We are attacking the UCI in the courts but that will take us one to three years. The reason for that is because we are asking for a large amount of money.
“We are very frustrated by what has happened. This is not the way of doing business, telling somebody you have a license, then we go and attract riders, cars, the bus and a lot of other stuff. Then once we give all the riders contracts etc then they say, ‘sorry, but you don’t have your license anymore.’
“It is not the way of doing business, so we are going to court to attack the UCI and at least get a lot of money back.”
Well I guess the latest lines are drawn and once again, cycling’s off course antics are taking press space away from the racing.