On Tuesday 27th, February 2007 Unibet.com issued the following statement.
For several months now, the Unibet cycling team has been following the decisions of the 3 organizers of the major European cycling tournaments with growing unease: ASO, RCS and Unipublic, have thrown down the gauntlet to the International Cycling Union. Now we have decided to react because the European bike is under threat.
On basis of a rigorous sport-, ethics- and financial audit, the International Cycling Union, the world’s governing body for cycling, has granted a ProTour licence to the 20 most professional teams in the world. All the cyclists, sponsors and partners have committed themselves to this transparent approach. But the 3 companies who organize major tours such as the Tour de France, the Paris-Nice race, the Giro, the Vuelta… have let it be known that they will no longer adhere to this initiative. For every race, they intend to select cycling teams according to arbitrary criteria, regardless of sporting performance or ethical constraints. So, for the 2007 Tour de France, ASO has announced the exclusion of two ProTour teams who will be replaced by two teams nominated by the organizers. For the 2008 Tour, ASO has already announced that they will exclude 4 ProTour teams in favour of other teams based on ‘wild cards’ which in reality means ‘cash cards’, or to please certain friends. It won’t be difficult to hazard a guess at the invitation policy for the following years…
This sort of decisions will have deplorable consequences, in particular:
- For the athletes and their teams : if even the most exacting training does no longer guarantee a place in the major cycling races in France, Italy and Spain, the best cyclists will be threatened by the lack of security. Sponsors will not be prepared to risk sponsoring a team which, at the discretion of the organizers, may be prevented from racing at any time. This constitutes a direct threat to the teams and therefore to the athletes and in particular to the youngest cyclists who will find it difficult to find a career opening.
For the cycling fans: they will find themselves deprived of a genuine competition in which the best compete against one another under transparent regulations. Moreover, will the media be prepared to pay any longer for covering races where the best teams are replaced by teams of a lower level?
There are very simple solutions to get out of the impasse which is threatening cycling. For example, it would suffice to reduce the number of cyclists per team for the coming races. This would give more teams the opportunity to participate without overburdening the peloton. This reasonable compromise should be acceptable to everyone: UCI [International Cycling Union], teams, athletes and organizers… To turn it down would seriously threaten European cycling. Our sport has already lost several sponsors; we can not afford to lose any further support.
In the name of all those who are passionate about cycling and who live for this sport, we invite the organizers of the major tours and the International Union of Cycling to burry the hatchet: Stop this arbitrary decision which threatens cycling. Give priority to the competitive teams who respect ethics!
The Unibet team
Why the discrimination of the ProTour Cycling Team Unibet.com is very unfair
The Unibet.com cycling team passed a rigorous and objective selection procedure to obtain its UCI ProTour Licence. We met all sportive, financial, ethical and legal requirements to obtain this licence. In the ProTour circuit ProTour teams do not need to be selected or invited. It is therefore not acceptable that a ProTour team has to undergo subjective selection by particular organisers, granting ‘cash cards’ to Continental Professional Teams. We feel strongly victimized by the cartel ASO, RCS and Unipublic and discriminated w.r.t. Pro ‘cash’ Continental Teams. The economic damage to our team and our partners, suppliers & staff of not participating in all ProTour Races would be tremendous. The cartel wants to exclude Unibet and we have to oppose this with the all other ProTour teams. Since, at each race, other UCI ProTourTeams could be excluded. Whose turn will it be next?
• At the beginning of this cycling season, the Unibet.com Cycling Team has joint the ProTour for the period 2007-2010.
• All financial conditions with extended guaranties and 4 year budget of 10 mio. per year have been met, implying 40 mio. EUR during the period 2007-2010.
• We changed the management of the team (w.r.t. our Pro Continental Team in 2006) and founded a new paying agent in Sweden.
• This means we are now part of the 20 professional teams that form the Champions League of international cycling.
• We are pleased to have the opportunity to start and build a challenging project with our ProTour team for the next 4 years.
• We consider this ambition as a long-term project: we want to become better and better every year, by building up a whole structure and strengthening the squad.
• Our ProTour cycling team is being managed by competent staff (administration, service course, mechanics, attendants, …).
Paying agent Cycle AB succeeded in obtaining a partnership with top suppliers: Premium brands like CANYON.com (Germany) and Lightweightwheels.com (Germany) and BioRacer (Belgium). The economic damage to these and other suppliers of not participating in all ProTour Races would be tremendous
• During a hectic autumn and winter 2006, we succeeded in hiring a team of 26 promising riders with a passion to perform.
• Unibet.com is a multinational company and this dimension reflects in the team with riders from all over the world: Sweden, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Colombia, Australia, Venezuela, Russia, Germany, Denmark and Poland.
• We are proud to have gathered a group of promising riders and - most importantly - all with strong common values, virtues and qualities.
• We have a strong belief in our team leaders: the sprinters Baden Cooke and Jimmy Casper, the climbers Rujano and Pena and polyvalent rider Matteo Carrara. Our team is completed with time trialists, attackers and pilots. With this diversified portfolio we are convinced that we will surprise in 2007!
o Baden Cooke: former green jersey in the Tour de France; winner of a stage in Tour Down Under in Australia 2007 and in L’Etoile de Bessèges 2007.
o Are the organizers of the Tour, Giro and Vuelta afraid of Jose Rujano, our Venezuelan top climber ready to take the mountain jersey or a podium in a Grand Tour (as he did in the Giro of 2005)? Jose (1m.59, 59kg.) was already outstanding in the mountain stages in the Tour of Maleisia.
o Jimmy Casper winner first stage in the Tour 2006 and French. Winner of the bunch sprint in the final stage of Etoile de Bessèges for the 3th place.
o Victor Hugo Pena, former top domestique of Lance Armstrong and yellow jersey rider for 3 days in the Tour de France of 2003. Pena was 9th in the overall ranking of the Giro d’Italia 2006.
o Unthinkable that our Italian top rider Matteo Carrara could not participate in his races: Milan San Remo (10th in 2006) and Tour of Lombardia (6th in 2006). Matteo was 3th in the 2007-mountain stage in the Tour Méditerranéen on the Mont Faron.
• Gustav Larsson, Swedish and top time trialist: 5th overall ranking Tour Down Under
• Jeremy Hunt: winner of the opening classic in France: La Marseillaise
• Dangerous outsiders: Laurens ten Dam, Arnaud Coyot, Gorik Gardeyn, Jonas Ljungblad, Luis Pasamontes, Erwin Thijs, …
Swedish ProTour team
• The Unibet.com team was awarded a ProTour licence by the International Cycling Union (UCI) for the period 2007-2010 and is going to be managed by the Swedish organization Green Cycle Associates AB.
• With team leader Michael Lafis, classics rider Jonas Ljungblad and time trialist Gustav Larsson, the Unibet.com ProTour team already consists of three main Swedish players.
• We invested in a partnership with the Swedish Cycling Federation which implies that Unibet.com will be the main equipment sponsor of Swedish riders competing in European and World Championships. Another objective concerns the intense development of talented young Swedish cyclists (under 23) participating in races abroad.
• We support the Swedish cycling federation in order to develop top speed cycling in a non traditional cycling country!
Youngster in the ProTour pack
• With an average age of 26 years and 3 months our team is by far the youngster in the ProTour pack.
• It is our strategy to invest in and grow with the world stars of tomorrow.
• Indeed, youngsters as Sergey Kolesnikov (already 2° in a stage of the Tour of Maleisia 2007), Alexandre Katuntchev (already 4° in a stage of the Ruta del sol 2007), Markus Eichler, Michel Golas, Rigoberto Uran and other were all eager to join the new kid on the block Unibet.com and share the same passion to perform!
• We feel it our responsibility to manage, educate and control these top youngsters!
Role model w.r.t. anti-doping policy
• The image of cycling was – yet again – severely dented in 2006.
• Scandals such as Operacion Puerto and the unsettling outcome of the Tour de France gravely damaged professional cycling.
• Unibet.com wants to be a role model. As one of the latest ProTour teams, we were of the first to adopt the latest anti doping policy on DNA.
• The backbone of our view on doping consists of a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy laid down in writing and a medical and ethical statute to be signed by all those involved in the team.
• Great responsibility in terms of anti-doping measures lies with this team, the community where cyclists spend most of their sport time. And the team certainly also took its responsibility when it came to recruiting new cyclists. Riders with a doping history - based on medical evidence, UCI data and judicial inquiries and convictions - were not contacted and/or were fired.
• We invested in an own laborist and sysmex 2000 out of competition checks and being forwarded to the UCI immediately!,
Own Continental Team
• Additionally, we will give 13 young cyclists (of which 2 promising Swedish cyclists) from various European countries the opportunity to discover cycling in a professional and transparent way in our continental team, close to the ProTour team’s infrastructure in Ghent.
• Unibet.com supports and manages its own Continental Team in 2007 because we feel it our responsibility to manage, educate and control young riders in the same way and with the same values as the ProTeam.
• We also support the youth cycling teams of the DCM-GB Vorselaar Cycling Team in Flanders (Belgium). This youth team comprises 90 youngsters in 2007 (30 young cyclists in the age group -14; 30 young cyclists in the age group 14-16 and 30 young cyclists in the age group 17-19).
It is our ambition to shape a cycling pyramid (e.g. the best DCM-GB cyclists may be transferred to the Continental Team)