Tempers flare as WorldTour race comes down to the wire

cycling,oleg tinkoff,RUS,WorldTour,Saxo,Argos-Shimano
Causing a stir... Oleg Tinkoff (Getty Images)

With two teams vying for the 18th and WorldTour spot, and the UCI's decision looming, things are getting heated.

Do you seriously believe that our team should fight with Argos-Shimano for a (WorldTour License)? LOL.

Argos-Shimano and Saxo-Tinkoff will be formally told by the International Cycling Union (UCI) Licence Commission in the coming days which one of them has made the cut to be the 18th and final WorldTour squad for the 2013 season.

The commission is currently reviewing each team under sporting and ethical criteria, and in sporting terms, Saxo-Tinkoff is ahead of Argos.

Saxo announced a new major sponsor in Tinkoff, allowing it to bolster its line-up for next season. The signatures of Nicolas Roche, Rory Sutherland, Oliver Zaugg and Roman Kreuziger make it among the strongest in the professional peloton.

Alberto Contador re-signed with the team in August after serving a doping suspension for his clenbuterol positive at the 2010 Tour de France and went on take the team's biggest result of the year, the overall classification at La Vuelta a Espana.

The complication for Saxo-Tinkoff is that the team's biggest points earner, Contador, does not count for his team's overall sporting total. Under UCI rules, a banned rider cannot earn points for an additional 18 months after returning to the sport, precluding the Spaniard from adding any value.

This has been a contentious point for team manager Bjarne Riis who has campaigned heavily for the rules to be revised, claiming the punishment is a form of 'double jeopardy' and in contravention to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules.

Argos-Shimano has had success this season, but has lacked points. John Degenkolb starred at the Vuelta a Espana with a five-stage haul, but without a strong general classification hope all year, and failing to make its mark in the classics, it's faced missing out on a WorldTour place, a guarantee that would allow it participation in all three Grand Tours.

In the team's favour is its strong anti-doping stance and its membership to the Movement For A Credible Cycling (MPCC), both are strong positives for the UCI's ethical criteria. Bjarne Riis's past, and Contador's positive test, could do Saxo-Tinkoff some harm.

While the process has dragged on, Oleg Tinkov believes the decision can only end one way: in Saxo's favour. He lashed Argos-Shimano and the delays from the UCI in a press conference in Moscow.

"Alberto Contador is a superstar, the best rider in the world, and I can't even remember the name of a rider from Argos-Shimano," Tinkov said, according to RIA Novosti.

"It is obviously a crazy situation, and I personally cannot imagine that we won't get a (WorldTour) licence."

German sprinter Marcel Kittel went to Twitter to voice his disappointment with the comments.

"Hey Oleg! You're right: why should cycling need credibility and rules?!," adding with emoticons, "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil."

Tinkov, who has a large Twitter following himself, responded in kind when a similar comment was put to him by another user.

"Do you seriously believe that our team should fight with Argos-Shimano for a (WorldTour License)? LOL."

The WorldTour points system has come under criticism since its inception, with a lack of transparency and the 11th hour nature to licences being awarded, causing consternation from teams.

The system has also been linked to incentivising doping, and the devaluing of domestiques.

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