The UCI has confirmed there will be 18 teams in the sports highest division in 2017, awarding the final place to UAE Abu Dhabi, which replaces the planned TJ Sport team and which was known as Lampre-Merida in 2016.
No other details were revealed by the UCI but the press release said it had awarded UAE Abu Dhabi a two-year licence "following a full review of the documentation provided concerning different criteria for awarding of licences (sporting, financial, administrative and ethical)." The UCI did not specify why a decision on the TJ Sports team had been delayed so long.
The UCI released a list of 17 WorldTour teams for 2017 on November 25 but said the WorldTour licence of the team managed by Saronni was still under review.
Saronni faced a race against time to secure a WorldTour licence for 2017, with riders and staff worried that previously announced funding from a consortium of Chinese backers would never materialise.
Cyclingnews reported on December 13 that bike sponsor Colnago had helped secure a sponsor from Abu Dhabi. The names of the backers and title sponsors are still unclear.
- Swift in the dark but confident team will go ahead
- New sponsor set to save TJ Sport team after problems with Chinese backers
- TJ Sport team in race against time to secure WorldTour licence
- UCI awards 17 WorldTour licences for 2017 but TJ Sports remain under review
- UCI award Androni Giocattoli a Pro Conti licence but no word on TJ Sport
It seems the new sponsors will ensure the team has a budget of eight or nine million Euros. This is likely to be the lowest of all the WorldTour teams and allow little for extra costs such as training camps and expensive team presentations but should ensure that riders and staff are paid their agreed salaries.
TJ Sport re-signed Rui Costa, Diego Ulissi and Sacha Modolo after the deal with its expected Chinese backers in August. The team also added Ben Swift from Team Sky, Darwin Atapuma from BMC, Andrea Guardini from Astana, Vegard Stake Laengen from IAM Cycling and Marco Marcato from Wanty-Groupe Gobert.
18 WorldTour teams in 2017
The 18 places in the 2017 WorldTour have been awarded to AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, BMC, Bora-hansgrohe, Cannondale-Drapac, Dimension Data, Quick-Step Floors, FDJ, Lotto Soudal, Movistar, Orica-Bike Exchange, Bahrain-Merida, Katusha-Alpecin, LottoNL-Jumbo, Team Sky, Team Sunweb (formerly Giant-Alpecin), Trek-Segafredo and UAE Abu Dhabi.
Most of the teams competed at the WorldTour level in 2016 with Bora-Hansgrohe stepping up from Professional Continental after signing Peter Sagan and Rafa Majka. New squad Bahrain-Merida has secured WorldTour status for its first season after signing Vincenzo Nibali as team leader.
After awarding the 18th WorldTour licence to UAE Abu Dhabi, the UCI said "the registration procedure for the 2017 UCI WorldTour has now been completed."
It also confirmed the names of the 21 Professional Continental teams registered for 2017, explaining that the position of the Soul Brasil Pro Cycling and the Polish Activejet Pro Cycling team are still under review.