MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — Joaquím Rodríguez celebrated Katusha’s victory over the UCI in an empty conference room. The Spaniard wanted to spread the word about the Court of Arbitration for Sport upholding his team’s appeal against cycling’s governing body, but the journalists were not there to listen.
Rodríguez, and the news that Katusha had another shot to race in the WorldTour, had been upstaged. In the previous hour, Tour de France champion Brad Wiggins and his Sky teammate Chris Froome met the press. BMC Racing followed suit, sending in Cadel Evans and world champion Philippe Gilbert for a chat.
After five days of racing and all-star press conferences in the Tour of Oman, it appeared little remained in the reserves for the back and forth between Katusha and the UCI.
Earlier in the day, Rodríguez and Froome had chased down Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) in stage 5 of the race. The two Spaniards tried to crack the Sky rider and upend his overall lead, but were unsuccessful. Adding insult to injury, Froome sprinted for the stage win in Boshar.
Driving off the climb and to Boshar, Katusha’s top sports director, Valerio Piva, responded to a telephone call from his boss, general manager Viatcheslav Ekimov.
“Good news, Valerio,” said Ekimov. “We won!”
In December, Katusha appealed to CAS over the UCI’s decision to leave the team out of the first division for 2013. The team had a license through 2015, but the UCI only accepts 18 teams and after an evaluation, decided other formations were worthier.
The UCI’s license commission said the exclusion was due to ethics. The commission kept the specifics private, between its members and Katusha, but it surely considered the team’s doping cases over the past four years.
The CAS saw things differently and so informed Ekimov. He called Piva, who waited to tell Rodríguez the good news.
“Certainly, I was very happy,” Piva said. “Right after the finish, I told Purito and all the riders.”
At that moment, most journalists were circled around Froome, asking about his stage win and what it means for his Tour dreams. They continued quizzing Froome and Wiggins Friday evening. BMC Racing took their attention afterward, causing many to simply forget about Katusha and its UCI tug of war.
Even though Katusha won its case in Lausanne, it still must wait for the license commission to rule. At that point, the UCI must decide whether it will stick to its 18-team policy and boot out some other team, or allow 19 teams for 2013.
“It’s not our problem for the moment. We spent two months waiting for this answer,” Piva said. “The rest is a problem for the UCI.”
Rodríguez acknowledged that some of his friends in the peloton might now find themselves in the same position he was in. The UCI may decide to demote Euskaltel-Euskadi, Ag2r La Mondiale or some other team to keep the WorldTour limited to 18.
For his part, Rodríguez said the solution is to allow 19 teams.
“I wouldn’t like to see my other colleagues in this situation. It’s not easy to work like this,” Rodríguez said.
“I don’t want that another team has to go through what we’ve been through.”