Europcar applies for WorldTour licence

Europcar has applied for a WorldTour licence for 2014, the first time the team has done so since the car hire company took over sponsorship from Bouygues Telecom ahead of the 2011 season.

“We’ve received confirmation of receipt [of the application dossier] and we just have to wait for the decision,” Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau told “Our sponsor would love to take part in all of the big races, and especially the Vuelta.”

There had been concerns earlier in the year that Europcar would cease its sponsorship, but a two-year extension was announced on the second rest day of the Tour de France, with the company indicating that it wished for the team to have greater international visibility.

Bernaudeau’s team was part of the then ProTour in its inaugural season in 2005, but has not featured in cycling’s top flight since 2009. As a Pro Continental outfit, it has always succeeded in landing a wildcard invitation to the Tour de France, although it has not participated in another Grand Tour since the 2010 Vuelta a España.

Having beencomprised of 19 teams in 2013 following an appeal from Katusha to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the WorldTour is set to return to its original 18-squad format in 2014.

That reduction in places is offset by the disbandment of Euskaltel-Euskadi and Vacansoleil-DCM, however, and to date, Europcar is the only Pro Continental team to announce that it has applied for a WorldTour licence for next year. IAM Cycling recently confirmed that they would not seek a WorldTour licence for 2014.

If Europcar’s application is successful, Bernaudeau indicated that he would bring in three additional riders to his roster, which leads the UCI Europe Tour rankings for 2013, thanks largely to the points of Thomas Voeckler and emerging talent Bryan Coquard. The disbandment of teams including Vacansoleil, Euskaltel and Sojasun has left many riders without contracts for 2014.

“I have 22 riders right now, which is a little too many for our current level. But if we move up to the WorldTour, I’d take on three more,” Bernaudeau said. “But I won’t go beyond that. I don’t want to go mad.”

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