Cyclingnews understands that the troubled Katusha team has asked the UCI for a temporary Professional Continental licence so that Joaquim Rodriguez and his teammates can ride the Tour de San Luis in Argentina that begins on January 21.
The Russian team was refused a WorldTour licence for ethics reasons in December, but has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the hope to overturning the UCI's decision. However, the CAS hearing is expected to be held at the end of the month and not on Thursday as reported by some media, forcing Katusha to find a temporary solution as they fight for their future.
The team is currently without any kind of licence and faces a race against time to ensure its riders can start the Argentinean race. The Katusha riders are due to travel to Argentina on January 13. The UCI has apparently told the team decision by the Licence Commission will made before January 15.
Katusha was refused a WorldTour licence for 2013 due to a series of ethical issues, including several failed anti-doping tests in recent years. New team manager Viacheslav Ekimov has defended the team's record on doping and claimed the team deserved a WorldTour licence thanks to Rodriguez ending the 2012 season as the world's number one ranked rider. Rodriguez has threaten to quit Katusha if the team does not secure a WorldTour licence and an automatic invitation to the Tour de France. RCS Sport has already overlooked the team for a wild card invitation to the Giro d'Italia.
The ethical issues sparked speculation that the team could also fail to secure a Professional Continental licence. It seems that the team's management has now offered a series of extra anti-doping measures in an attempt to appease the Licence Commission and at least secure a Professional Continental licence for 2013. These apparently include some kind of internal anti-doping controls and a much stronger stance against doping.
The way the UCI Licence Commission decides which teams meet the required ethical standard to be obtain a licence remains a tightly guarded secret. Cyclingnews understands there are no written rules or standards that must be met, with any decisions arbitrary to the Licence Commission president Pierre Zappelli and the three other members.
Rusvelo – also part of the Russian Global Cycling projected presided by oligarch Igor Makarov was given a Professional Continental licence on Wednesday. If Katusha joins them, there would be 20 teams in cycling's second division. The UCI has indicated that if the Court of Arbitration for Sport rules in favour of Katusha and awards them a place in the WorldTour, then the lowest ranked team, would be forced down to Professional Continental level.