By Nigel Wynn
Dutch squad Skil-Shimano has applied for a ProTour licence for 2010, according to the Union Cycliste Internationale.
Currently a Professional Continental team, Skil-Shimano were a surprise inclusion in this year's Tour de France on a wildcard invitation. They came away from the race empty-handed in terms of stage wins, but its riders were often seen in breakaways giving the squad some TV airtime.
Kenny van Hummel is the squad's best known rider. The Dutch sprinter currently leads the UCI's Europe Tour classification largely as a result of winning five races in May. However, van Hummel struggled in the Tour and withdrew from the race after a crash on stage 17.
The squad will likely have to strengthen its roster if its ProTour application is successful - money shouldn't be an issue as it has solid sponsors in the shape of powertool manufacturer Skil and cycle component giant Shimano.
Skil-Shimano joins the British Sky team and Lance Armstrong's US-based RadioShack outfit in applying for a ProTour licence for 2010.
A total of 18 teams currently hold a ProTour licence. Five teams' licences were due to lapse at the end of 2009, and all have applied to have them renewed for 2010: Ag2r, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Lampre and Milram.
Given that the ProTour was conceived as having 20 teams, this means that there are only two vacant slots. Unless a current teams drops out or the UCI changes the rules to include 21 teams, one of the three new applicants - Skil-Shimano, Sky or RadioShack - may be refused its licence application.
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