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Ever since the UCI announced last week that it had formulated a new system of sporting criteria to help it determine which teams should be awarded entry into cycling's top tier, there has been confusion and objections from several teams. Garmin-Transitions boss Jonathan Vaughters, also president of the teams association, the AIGCP (Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels) is one of the few people to have seen the details of how the rankings were calculated, and is not happy with how secretive the UCI has been about it.
The UCI will use the 'sporting criteria' formula, a mix of points for a team's 2011 roster which tallies its riders 2009 and 2010 results while adding some weight to the team's previous stage race team classifications, to determine which teams will gain ProTeam licenses. It guarantees the top 15 teams entry to the top tier, provided they meet the ethical, financial and administrative criteria, while the three remaining spots will be awarded to other teams within the top 20. The exact formula has been a mystery to many.
"I think that not lending visibility to this is extremely destructive to sponsorship searches," Vaughters told Cyclingnews from New York, where he is currently searching for funding for Slipstream's U23 team. "Sponsors want to know if the team will be in the top events. To keep something semi-secret means you cannot give an official explanation to a sponsor." This makes securing a team's future more difficult.
HTC-Columbia team owner Bob Stapleton, commenting on the ranking prior to the UCI's announcement, echoed Vaughters' concern. "The UCI had the intention of making it unpredictable - it was a stated goal," Stapleton said. "That is not an attractive proposition for sponsors. They want to know that their franchise would have certain rights - you have to earn those rights for sure - but this kind of mystery contest that isn't announced until October? That's not right."
The UCI said it would not allow teams outside the top 20 into the first division, leaving FDJ manager Marc Madiot, whose team is 21st in the rankings, left with "surprise and incomprehension" at the news.
When asked about the details of how the rankings, which bear no resemblance to the 2010 overall UCI teams classification, spokesman Enrico Carpani would only say that the formula had "no parallel with official UCI rankings", and was an "internal ranking based on 2009 and 2010 results from riders on 2011 roster".
Carpani said that the UCI has purposely not disclosed the formula to the teams or the press.
The new system no longer guarantees division one licenses to AG2R and Quick Step, whose ProTour licenses had not yet expired. The two teams are outside the top 15 and must now wait for the UCI's licensing commission's final decision to know if they will gain automatic entry into the sport's top events or be left fighting for wild card entries.
"I can’t comment on the chances of AG2R and Quick Step versus those of new candidates standing higher in the sporting hierarchy," Carpani said. "The licence commission now has to consider the overall UCI evaluations based on all four criteria, though granted, the sporting criterion outranks the rest."