French teams, Cofidis and Bbox Bouygues Telecom, have reacted with surprise to the International Cycling Union's (UCI) decision to deny renewal of their ProTour licences. The two teams have been a part of the ProTour since its inception in 2005 and although caught off-guard by their sudden change in status, neither expects the decision to significantly affect their 2010 season.
Bouygues Telecom manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau said the lack of the ProTour status will not affect the teams ability to compete in the Grand Tours.
"We are covered by contract for participation in the Grand Tours under an agreement signed in London in 2008 by the 18 ProTour teams. We have a loyal sponsor who supports us. This decision therefore does not change our goals or objectives," Bernaudeau told AFP.
The team may, however, spend less time racing abroad with a second-tier license, including the first event on the ProTour calendar, the Tour Down Under. The Australian race only invites ProTour teams and a composite Australian national squad. Bernaudeau does not think the change in programme would impact the team's racing potential. "The French teams have a comprehensive national programme [of races to attend]."
He expects to have 25 riders under contract for 2010, even though the change in status has been of concern to the riders. Pierrick Fédrigo has already expressed his desire to leave the team, but Bernaudeau denied being asked to let the rider out of his contract.
"He never asked about leaving, and I never spoke to his manager," said Bernaudeau, adding that neither Fédrigo nor the other riders have a clause in their contract which would allow release on the basis of the squad's loss of ProTour status.
Cofidis is up for renewal with its title sponsor in 2011. Though, Thierry Vittu, a director of the French credit institution, said the step-down in level will not affect the company's decision on whether or not to continue as a major backer of the cycling team.
"Either we decide to stop [sponsorship] and make sure the organization continues, or we commit to returning with a bigger budget and a longer duration of commitment," he said to AFP.
Vittu was surprised and disappointed at the team's losing ProTour status, but said the UCI's decision was objective and based on its rankings. "Our 20th place in team standings was not up to what one might expect."
Both teams have had good results during 2009. Bouygues Telecom took two Tour de France stage victories in a season total of 13 wins. Cofidis has won 17 races, including a stage win and the mountains classification at the Vuelta a España for David Moncoutié, overall victory at Tour de l'Ain through Rein Taaramae and Julien El Fares' general classification win at the Tour de Wallonie.
Vittu said Cofidis' budget is already set for 2010 and the team will remain at 24 riders regardless of the license.
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