Cycling's Pro Tour series will race at full strength in 2009 after the International Cycling Union cleared 18 teams to take part.
The UCI's Pro Tour Council approved applications from the teams, including the Katusha team from Russia, which will make its debut. The teams represent 10 different nations. They were cleared after the UCI checked their budgets and plans for the season.
The Pro Tour series starts with the Tour Down Under cycling race in Australia beginning January 20th. There are eight stage races, and six one-day classics on the 2009 calendar.
The series does not include the so-called Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain, which are featured on a separate calendar.
Pro Tour teams are guaranteed entry into series events and promise to send strong squads. Race organizers ensure that there will be adequate television coverage to satisfy sponsors. Riders collect points that count toward a season-long championship.
Some information for this report was provided by AP