The troubled Katusha team has confirmed that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will hear its appeal against the UCI's decision to refuse the Russian squad a WorldTour licence on February 8.
CAS turned down Katusha's request from a provisional verdict so it could start the Tour Down Under but the decisive verdict, that could decide the future of the team and if leader Joaquim Rodriguez decides to leave, is likely to come a few days after the hearing.
The UCI Licence Commission turned down Katusha's WorldTour application for ethical reasons, claiming the team had been hit by three recent positive doping cases and had done little to promote an anti-doping culture.
Katusha argued that the team's management had done as much, if not more, than other major teams in the fight against doping, offering to pay the UCI to carry out extra anti-doping controls on the team. They are determined to fight for a place in the WorldTour even after the UCI announced that another team will be forced out of the WorldTour if Katusha wins its appeal.
Katusha has been given a Professional Continental licence but Rodriguez has threatened to quit the team if it does not secure WorldTour status and an automatic invitation to the Tour de France and other major races.
Rodriguez plans for the future
Rodriguez's current contract with Katusha becomes null and void if the team fails to obtain a WorldTour licence. He has been linked to Lampre-Merida, Movistar and BMC Racing Team but suggested his likely destination is elsewhere. In an interview with Spanish website Biciciclismo website, Rodriguez indicated that his preferred destination will surprise many people.
“The team I am most close to signing with hasn’t been mentioned by anyone. But if I were to go for the financial aspect of it, I should stay with Katusha," he told Biciciclismo.
"Others offers won’t be comparable. The team needs me now they aren’t in the WorldTour. But I am at an age now that I want to ride good races. This new contract will be a long-term one and probably the last one I sign.”
Rodriguez has promised to await the final CAS verdict.
"If I stay it’s for my teammates and the staff. I'm not just thinking of myself, I'll find a place in the WorldTour but my teammates might not. It will be very tough for them if I leave. What happens if Mr. Makarov decides to end the team? I feel at home with Katusha. So I’ll wait at least until the CAS verdict before deciding my future.”