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The Ladies Tour of Qatar –infamous for its heat, flat stages and brutal crosswinds –has been a season opener for many riders in past seven years, but next year it will also be the season ender as Qatar will play host to the 2016 UCI Road World Championships. This makes the tour even more attractive to riders as it could serve as a preview of the race terrain and conditions we might expect at the world championships later that year.
But when race organisers ASO announced the lineups for the men’s and women’s tours last week, it appears that the opportunity of a preview is granted to only a select few.
Just eight top-level squads are set to take part in the men’s tour, and 15 teams are invited to attend the Ladies Tour of Qatar.
The list of invited teams is a mix of trade teams and national teams, including Ale Cipollini, Australia – AIS Cycling, Boels/Dolmans, Canyon Sram, China Chongming-Liv-Champion-System, Cylance Pro Cycling Team, Equipe De France, Hitec Products, Italian Cycling Federation, Lares-Waowdeals Uci Women Team, Orica-AIS, Rabo Liv, Team Liv Plantur, Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling Team and Wiggle.
Among the bigger trade teams listed, there seems to be an obvious omission: Bigla Pro Cycling Team.
For Bigla, who will race as Cervélo-Bigla Pro Cycling in 2016, being omitted is a big blow. Currently ranked fifth in the world, the Bigla Pro Cycling Team is the only top ranked team to not receive an invitation.
“This is a 2.1 ranked race and as a top five team in the world they let us know they we won’t be invited. We have a sprinter in Lotta Lepistö who could win a stage here but the bigger picture is the race program affects our sponsor contracts. Programs are set and training camps are set and it affects everything and we now have to adapt,” said Team Manager Thomas Campana. “As a top 5 UCI team to not be invited it shows clearly that the UCI rules need to be re-evaluated. It’s a major impact for all our sponsors and partners and our race program.”
Ella CyclingTips contacted the ASO for a clarification on this decision. In response, ASO’s Amaury Bodin stated: “We took into consideration several elements, as nationalities or rosters, and we had to choose 15 teams only…we decided not to select Bigla Pro Cycling for the 2016 Ladies Tour of Qatar.”