By Shane Stokes
In a further development of its campaign to be allowed start Paris-Nice and other ASO races, the Unibet.com team announced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that it has been assured by French authorities that wearing clothing which omits the main sponsor's logo makes the team fully legal on the country's roads.
The team is currently taking court action due to their dissatisfaction with Monday's settlement deal between the UCI and the three Grand Tours. General manager Koen Terryn said in an interview with Cyclingnews on Wednesday that the team had been left out in the cold by the deal and that they have applied to a French court for a ruling which would enable them to start Paris-Nice on Sunday.
Furthermore, he claimed that ASO is fully aware that the team will wear non-branded clothing in all French races, including the Tour de France, and that while this complies with French law limiting gambling advertising, the organisers continue to use the legal argument as justification for excluding the team.
At the press conference and in a press release issued afterwards, the team explained its position. "The Unibet Team has long left behind the legal issue with respect to sponsoring," it said in the communique. "As a matter of fact, in the first races of the season, the "GP de la Marseillaise" and the "Etoile de Bessèges", the Unibet Team has raced in a "neutral" outfit, upon prior dialogue with the representatives of the French police authorities and in entire agreement with various French Prefectoral decisions that had been issued.
"The Unibet Team is therefore perfectly entitled to participate in cycling races in France. The Unibet Team retains correspondence of both the UCI and ASO, in which this situation is explicitly acknowledged. More precisely, the Unibet Team has explicitly stated towards ASO that it would, if required, continue to participate in certain races with a "neutral" outfit, and ASO has acknowledged explicitly and in writing that in such circumstances, it would take into consideration the candidacy of the Unibet Team for its various races."
As a result of this, the team says that court proceedings will be taken if the organisers use this argument in the future. "Any further allegation of UCI or of ASO, RCS or Unipublic that the Unibet Team would be "illegal" or that it would not be allowed to participate in races in France, Italy or Spain is therefore an act of defamation against which legal actions will be taken."
The team also charges that it has been caught in the middle of the clash over the ProTour, being used by the Grand Tour organisers as a means to provoke the UCI in their conflict. "The Unibet Team was sometimes refused access for "organisational reasons", on other occasions the justification was based especially towards the press on "legal reasons."
"The Unibet team has sufficient material to refute these justifications, and refers to a copy of the writ of summons put at the disposal of the press. The justifications invoked are manifestly a cover-up. It is apparent that the Unibet Team has been refused access to several races on arbitrary grounds, and namely in order to provoke a conflict with UCI."
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