Its been a busy week this week both on the road and off as the Puerto trial continues to dominate the cycling press away from the tarmac whilst some fantastic racing in Oman has finally diverted some focus away from the backroom drama - though not for long as CAS made their decision in the Katusha licence case today...
CAS Upholds Katusha Appeal
It was last December when the UCI Licence Commission made it's shock announcement that Katusha would not be given a ProTour licence for 2013 on 'ethical grounds'. The public was never made aware of what these 'ethical grounds' were though speculation that it concerned past doping misdemeanours and/or some dodgy backroom finances has been rife since the news came. Katusha appealed the decision to CAS who announced their verdict today, stating that they "did not reach the same conclusions as the UCI Licensing Commission" and thus Katusha must be given a ProTour licence for 2013. It is unclear what will happen now, as the UCI originally stated that if Katushas appeal was excepted then another team would have to be removed from the WorldTour. This would of course cause a bit of a stir and would likely result in a continuing circle of licence refusals and upheld appeals. Another option would be to just accept Katusha back and work 2013 with 19 ProTour teams instead of 18 though again this would result in some logistical issues for race organisers. It is unclear if any wildcards may be revoked as a result of this option. It's a very messy business.
Chris Froome Set To Be Crowned Tour Of Oman 2013 Winner
Barring any incident in tomorrows final stage of the Tour of Oman it looks as though Sky's Christopher Froome will walk away with the honours as he managed to cement his lead today pipping Alberto Contador to the line. The racing was frantic again today with 3 climbs close to the finish. Contador lit the touch paper on the penultimate climb shedding much of the bunch before launching an attack on the last climb - distancing everybody but Froome who managed to claw back a 20 second deficit. Today's stage followed yesterdays big GC stage where riders tackled the ascent of the Green Mountain which produced some phenomenal early season racing from the sports biggest stars, seeing the likes of Froome, Contador, Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali and Joaquim Rodriguez battle for victory rather than sit back and use the race as a training exercise. By all accounts it's been a great race - it's just a shame there was no live coverage to witness the spectacle as it happened. Hopefully (hint, hint) this will be rectified for next year though whether the race will attract such a strong field in 2014 is anybodies guess. It's a good start to Chris Froomes season which he hopes will culminate in victory at the Tour de France in July.
Andy Schleck To Miss Tour du Haut Var-Matin
Andy Schleck will not race in tomorrows Tour du Haut Var-Matin as expected and instead will focus on some training in Majorca. His team management have stressed that this is a precautionary move: "Andy’s main goals are situated later in the season. It’s better that we are cautious now instead of taking steps backward.” This comes after criticism that Andy Schleck may have been suffering with his state of mind and lack of enthusiasm or dedication to training and competing. He started brightly in the Santos Tour Down Under but withdrew from the race before it's conclusion and then retired very early on stage 1 of the Tour Mediteraneen. He is now expected to race the Grand Premio Città di Camaiore at the end of February.
Volta ao Algarve tackles the Alto do Malhão
This years shortened Volta ao Algarve looks set to be decided on Sundays final Individual Time Trial (My Money is on Tony Martin) but riders must first face the only summit finish of the race tomorrow as they head up the Alto do Malhão - a 2.5km climb averaging around 9%. It's not a Tour climb but is certainly tough enough for riders to drop off and lose time here. The likely winner will be a puncheur rather than GC climber but it should make for an explosive finale as riders hit the bottom of the slope at pace - and it will be the pace that makes this climb more brutal than its appearance.