By Kirsten Robbins
International Team H20 will continue as a France-based continental team after being denied Professional Continental status by the International Cycling Union (UCI) last week.
According to team manager Francesco Frattini, the initial aim was to begin with Continental status as they awaited a response from the UCI addressing why they were denied a professional license. "The intent of the directors continues to focus on building a UCI Professional Continental team for the 2009 season, thinking that we gave all of the documentation and guarantee requested by the UCI," team management stated in a press release.
"We received a fax from the UCI where they communicated to us the refusal of our request for the Professional Continental license and they post-dated the reason for the refusal until January of 2009. We are waiting to receive a response for the reasons why the UCI came to their decision, which will happen when the offices of the UCI reopen after the holidays."
Contrary to recent reports of the team's demise, the squad will begin its inaugural season with a continental license. "At present, we wish to absolutely refute any kind of renouncement of the project and even less of the planned programmes for the imminent season.
"Upon our knowledge of the UCI's decision, the team will estimate the best possibility to maintain our arrangements and commitments with the athletes, staff and all that still trust in our program. Naturally in the full respect of the rules that the UCI imposes."
The 16 riders who signed contracts with the squad include Jempy Drunker, Valentin Iglinski, Wim Vanhuffell, Luciano Pagliarini, Paolo Bailetti, Ruslan Pidgorny, Rubens Bertogliati, Sergio Pardilla, Benoit Berges, Patrice Halgand, Aurélien Passeron, Latvia's Raivis Belohvosciks, Lubos Pelanek, Mikaël Szkolnik, Micula Dematteis and brothers Pedro and Jesus Merino.
"The athletes and the staff have been timely informed of the UCI's decision and we have confirmed our intention to resolve the situation in the best way possible," team management stated. "Every athlete has been given the full freedom to choose to continue with the team or negotiate other engagements because we respect the professional and individual interests of the riders."