Team also to claim compensation from UCI in courts
By Shane Stokes
As the days tick down to Paris-Nice, the Unibet.com ProTour team has taken legal action against ASO, organisers of the race, in order to ensure they get a start on Sunday.
Speaking to Cyclingnews on Wednesday morning, general manager Koen Terryn said that the team will know the outcome in two days time. "We have taken a case against ASO and the results of this will be coming out on Friday afternoon. We went to court in France yesterday evening to try to have a judge say that ASO needs to invite us to Paris-Nice.
"I don't know the exact term in English, but it is a special case where the judge needs to make an announcement in the first 36 hours or so. As we are a ProTour team, if we are not allowed to enter the ProTour races then the competition is not valid and we will be damaged. If we can't start a certain races, we can't get points."
He also confirmed that they are taking a court action against the UCI. "We are attacking the UCI in the courts but that will take us one to three years. The reason for that is because we are asking for a large amount of money.
"We are very frustrated by what has happened," he continued. "This is not the way of doing business, telling somebody you have a license, then we go and attract riders, cars, the bus and a lot of other stuff. Then once we give all the riders contracts etc then they say, 'sorry, but you don't have your license anymore.'
"It is not the way of doing business, so we are going to court to attack the UCI and at least get a lot of money back."
ASO has regularly used the argument that Unibet.com is illegal under French anti-gambling laws, most recently yesterday.
The team has however been able to race – and win – in France this year, wearing non-branded jerseys to avoid any legal complications. Terryn says that ASO are fully aware that they are willing to compromise in this way, but that the Tour organisers refuse to take this into account.
"The ASO are always telling the press that we are illegal. Firstly, we have already informed ASO that they need to make a difference between Unibet as a sponsor and the Unibet cycling team [when making such statements].
"Secondly, the team is willing to ride in France with the jersey without the name of Unibet.com. ASO knows this very clearly. We sent them an email, fax, we telephoned them but they are still persisting in saying that we are illegal in France. This isn't the case. If we are willing to ride with a neutral jersey, they can't use this reason anymore to attack us. But they still keep doing it.
"Of course, this is all because ASO don't like the ProTour. They like other teams to ask them if we can please take part in their races. That is the heart of the dispute between the UCI and ASO."
When Cyclingnews asked if the team would be willing to ride without Unibet.com on their jerseys in the Tour de France, Terryn is straight up. "Of course, of course. And don't forget, that apart from Unibet, the team needs to defend Canyon, for example, which is our bike sponsor, and Bioracer, the clothes sponsor. We have other sponsors as well, rather than just Unibet. So of course we would like to ride with a shirt with Canyon, with Bioracer, and as long as Unibet don't have a license in France, we won't mention Unibet.com on the shirt. That is not an issue."
Unibet.com will hold a press conference in Drongen, Belgium, at 2 PM on Wednesday afternoon. Cyclingnews will report from this conference and also feature a full interview with Koen Terryn soon.