By Bjorn Haake
The Agritubel team admitted to a rather expensive "administrative mistake" that cost the French Professional Continental team the UCI "wild card" designation. The team failed to pay for participation in the UCI's Biological passport program, a requirement for all UCI-designated "wild card" teams. Therefore, Agritubel was left off the final round of "wild card" teams designated by the UCI on Tuesday.
Since then, Agritubel has agreed to participate in the biological passport programme at an additional cost. This leaves the door for the team open to races like Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France. Teams without ProTour or "wild card" status cannot race ProTour events; however they can still race "historical" events like the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia as long as they are participating in the Passport Program.
"Unfortunately we won't be able to get a 'wild card' for this season, but the staff has decided to pay for the biological passport programme," the team told Cyclingnews. The UCI has given the six teams that were denied a "wild card" (Agritubel, LPR, Acqua e Sapone, CSF-Group Navigare, Xacobeo and Amica Chips - ed.) a deadline of March 11 to sign up for the passport programme.
Agritubel agreed without hesitation, despite a steeper price tag. Usually, an entire team has to pay 60,000 euro to participate. Instead, the charge will now be 7,300 euro per rider. Agritubel has 19 riders under contract; hence the team will pay a total of 138,700 euro.
Directeur Sportif Emmanuel Hubert acknowledged the team's administrative mistake but said, "We have the goal of participating in all the big races and also of showing reliability and transparency for cycling."
The team's top riders like Romain Feillu, Christophe Moreau and French champion Nicolas Vogondy will be happy with the news which still keeps them in the running to participate in their respective target races for the 2009 season. However, Moreau will not be able to race the Dauphiné Libéré, a ProTour event, which he won in 2007.
CSF Group-Navigare continues passport participation sans "wild card"
After CSF Group-Navigare was left off the UCI's list of 13 professional "wild card" teams Tuesday, the team remained calm and promised it would continue its participation in anti-doping programs nonetheless.
"For the 2009 season we continue to participate in the UCI's biological passport programme, as last year," said Bruno Reveberi on behalf of the team.
"This programme is essential as it enables us to be allowed to participate in the race we love the most, the Giro d'Italia, and it's a programme that we consider necessary to promote growth in cycling."
"So even if its costs are double what we had thought, it represents an expense that we must and want to spend."