By Nigel Wynn
Five teams have been named as not initially meeting the Union Cycliste Internationale's criteria set for 'sporting value' in the registration process for top-tier ProTeam status.
Ag2r La Mondiale, Geox-TMC, FDJ, Euskaltel-Euskadi and Europcar were all ranked outside the top 15 teams, according to the UCI's system which ranks teams based partly on their riders' sporting performances during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
These five teams will now have their sporting achievements assessed in more detail by the UCI Licence Commission. If it is found that a squad does not meet the required grade, it risks having its ProTeam application or existing licence rejected. They would then be free to apply for second-tier Professional Continental status, again subject to meeting the criteria for that level.
The ranking system is based on results from the top 15 riders that will race with a given team during 2012. So if a rider has moved from team A to team B for 2012, his results count for team B.
ProTeams have automatic entry into the UCI's WorldTour race calendar, which includes the spring classics and all three Grand Tours. Professional Continental teams still have a chance of entering these races on a wildcard basis.
In addition to meeting sporting criteria, teams must also meet the UCI's 'ethical, financial and administrative' criteria before being awarded ProTeam status.
Although the UCI listed the top 15 teams in a statement on Tuesday, it did not place them in a ranked order. Teams ranked below 20th place were not listed but the UCI confirmed that they will not be considered for a ProTeam licence. They can apply for Professional Continental status if they wish.
One team notably absent from the top 20 is Project 1T4I, formerly known as Skil-Shimano.
Garmin-Cervelo and Movistar both appear in the top 15 of the list despite both squads being absent from the UCI's initial list of 2012 ProTeam licences and applications. Also present in the top 15 is the Australian GreenEdge team, which will be a significant boost for the squad's ProTeam aspirations.
Geox-TMC are in particular trouble after lead sponsor, shoe manufacturer Geox, pulled out of supporting the Spanish team in 2012. The squad rode as a Pro Continental outfit in 2011, but crucially failed to gain a wildcard place at the Tour de France. Juan Jose Cobo gave the team its only stand-out result of the season when he won the Vuelta a Espana overall.
Top 15 teams that have met UCI sporting criteria
Astana Pro Team
BMC Racing Team
Garmin - Cervélo
GreenEdge Cycling Team
Lampre - ISD
Liquigas - Cannondale
Lotto Cycling Project
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
RadioShack - Nissan
Saxo Bank Sungard
Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team
Teams ranked 16th to 20th
16. AG2R La Mondiale
17. Geox - TMC
19. Euskaltel - Euskadi
20. Team Europcar
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