McQuaid hits back after ProTeam selection criticism

Pat McQuaid has hit back at criticism of the rules governing the allocation of ProTeam licences, calling the process “a just system” and adding that “there’s nothing secretive.”

On Tuesday evening the UCI announced the 18 teams registered as ProTeams for 2011, the sport's highest division formerly know as ProTour.

However, immediately after the announcement was made Geox-TMC team manager Mauro Gianetti criticised the selection process, saying: “The UCI isn’t coherent. Its decision gives the message that the important thing isn’t ethics but points.”

The Geox-TMC team was listed 17th in the UCI’s sporting criterion rankings based on riders signed for 2011 but ultimately missed out on a place in the final 18.

McQuaid, who is currently in China, insisted to Cyclingnews that the rules were fair and that any internal decisions on final licence allocation were made in the interests of the sport and by an independent licence commission.

“It was a system that was explained to the teams in April and once again June. They knew the system and that’s that,” McQuaid said.

“We want to have the best riders in the best teams, at the best races and that’s what this system will give us in time. Everybody wants to be ProTeam status but we can only take so many.”

Points mean places

While Geox-TMC, the team of 2008 Tour winner Carlos Sastre, and Denis Menchov miss out, Ag2r has moved from 20th place in the initial listing to secure a ProTeam place. Cofidis, who were originally ranked 19th have also missed out.

The rules on final selection come down to a mix of rider points, sporting ethics, team administration and finances. However McQuaid was unwilling to specify how the final selection for places were made, but added that all four elements were equally important.

“The exact rules are quite simple relating to the sporting level. We take the best 15 riders from each team at a certain date and we look at their results all year and we calculate the sporting value. It’s a just system, and there’s nothing secretive about that.”

“If you’ve got riders that have results you end up at the top level. We have a ranking system at the end of the World Tour with listings but this aspect is done separately and internally. The teams have been informed on how it works and the ProTour council has been informed with the facts and figures. It’s nothing secretive but it’s kept internal so that it doesn’t become ‘a cash for points system’ with riders trying to up their salaries.”

Cofidis, meanwhile, have blamed their lack of big name signings and an out-and-out team leader for missing out. However, according to McQuaid, that’s not correct.

“That’s not true. It wouldn’t be anything to do without having a team leader. From a sporting level they were not in the top 15 so they were not given a guarantee. From 16 to 18 it was always going to be left to the licence commission to decide and that’s an independent decision. They met with the teams, listened to them and then made an evaluation in terms of who would be the best teams at the top level for next year.”

“The question is over their points and the other elements that come into account. Cofidis is high in ethics but there are finance, admin, and the level of team overall. They’re all equally important but obviously points are important because if you don’t have enough points you don’t deserve to be in the top level.”

“I saw where Geox were complaining bitterly and Cofidis was a little bit more pragmatic in their statements but if it wasn’t them then it would be another two teams would be complaining.”

Grand Tour invitations

The new allocation of licences means that French cycling has been left with just one ProTeam squad for 2011. In theory that could mean that only one French team is invited to next year’s Tour de France.

“Since the ProTour started the French teams have been hovering around the bottom of the ranking every year,” McQuaid said. “That’s now reflected in what’s happened. One French team at the Tour? It could happen but it won’t happen.”

If the UCI have their way all 18 teams will receive automatic places in next year’s three Grand Tours. However, grumblings in Italy could scupper their plans, with Giro organiser, Angelo Zomegnan, revealing that a contract between at least his race and the UCI has yet to be signed.

“This guarantees that the 18 teams have places in the Grand Tours, that’s what the rules say,” McQuaid said.

“Angelo doesn’t make the rules, the UCI makes the rules and I have no doubt that it’s not going to be problem. I count on Angelo to make the correct decision and knowing him he will.”

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