The Grand Tour/ProTour battle nearly brought the sport to its knees when Unibet.com was denied entry to the first ProTour event, Paris-Nice. Following a compromise agreement, the ProTour went on with business as usual while leaving Unibet.com out of the majority of races. As the sport's power brokers battle it out in the courts, it's easy to forget about the 'collateral damage' to the riders' seasons and careers. Unibet.com's Matt Wilson gives Cyclingnews a candid view of his miserable year so far.
This season is turning out to be a nightmare! Last year was frustrating to say the least. Baden and I came over from Francaise des Jeux last year, and we were prepared to be doing a lot less of the bigger races, but we hoped that we would be granted a wild card for at least one of the Grand Tours. But no. In hindsight, that frustration is nothing compared to what we've faced this year.
In November of last year, after months and months and months of deliberating, the UCI finally granted us the ProTour licence we had been hoping for, and things we're finally looking on track. Immediately Baden, Jeremy Hunt and I sat down and punched out a program for the upcoming year, and started training with three goals in mind: Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubiax, and the Tour de France.
However, pretty much since the moment we landed in Europe, rumours were circulating that we'd been snubbed by the Grand Tours. Assured by our team management and the UCI that this was impossible, we all tried to block out the rumours and continue to stay focused on our goals.
From the first race at Marseille, there were problems with our sponsor's jerseys, but with the 'question mark' jerseys up our sleeves, we took the start anyway and won with Jez. Then straight up after that was the tour de Bessage were Baden won a stage and the team morale was on a high. It seemed as if our sponsor's advertising issues had been overcome, and the form was right on target for our first two goals of the year. Then it went pear-shaped big time.
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