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With the rider signing season in full swing there's an underlying reason for many squad's feverish scrabbling to sign top-level riders - a ProTour licence.

A total of 14 teams have now applied for the eight vacant Union Cycliste International ProTour places, meaning that there will be several disappointed teams unable to obtain a licence in the top flight, and the lack of assured entry into some of the highest-profile races.

Licence applications are studied in detail by the UCI's licence commission, which takes into account the financial stability of each team, sporting performance and ethics, particularly with regard to anti-doping protocol. The finalised list of 2011 ProTour teams should be published by December 10, 2010.

Without the presence of one or more top riders on its roster, a team may fail in its bid to secure a licence - hence the rush by several to sign the top-performing professional cyclists. It's good for the riders' hopes of a salary increase, but not so good for those squads with more limited budgets that fail to attract the top names.

Ten current teams have licences that extend into the 2011 season and beyond: Ag2r, Garmin-Transitions, Lampre-ISD, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Quick Step, Rabobank, Team Sky, Katusha, RadioShack and Saxo Bank.

Eight current ProTour teams have applied to renew their licences: Astana, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Francaise des Jeux, Liquigas-Doimo, HTC-Columbia, Geox (Footon-Servetto), Velocity (Milram) and Telefonica Movistar (Caisse d'Epargne).

In addition to this eight, six further teams have submitted an application for a ProTour place: Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, BMC Racing Team, Vacansoleil, Pegasus Sports and the Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project.

Read more on this story in the August 26 edition of Cycling Weekly magazine

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