Lotto-Soudal have announced that they will not be sending a team to compete in the team time trial (TTT) at next month’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar. The announcement follows August’s war of words between the governing body, the UCI and the Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels, AIGCP, which looks after the interests of cycling teams worldwide.
The AIGCP released a statement last month threatening a boycott of the Doha TTT, after an ‘overwhelming majority’ of WorldTour teams voted not to participate. The dispute stems from the reintroduction of the team time trial at the World Championships in 2012, which the UCI included in the event to make the programme more appealing to fans and spectators. Whilst the individual time trial and road races are contested by national teams; financially assisted by home federations as an incentive to participate, the TTT is open only to commercial teams, and is not subject to the participation allowance which is available at all other top races.
The UCI dismissed the boycott threat, announcing that all WorldTour teams should be present. “We continue to expect excellent participation…the Road World Championships is a celebration for the whole cycling family…the UCI, a non-profit organisation, reinvests any surpluses in the development of the sport of cycling”.
The dispute with the UCI also includes issues with the expansion of the race calendar, which has seen the addition of 10 extra events, all in far-flung locations. The AIGCP has concerns over the financial pressures upon teams, given that sponsors will have already allocated budgets for future seasons, which may now be inadequate due to the expanded race schedule.
The debacle with the reduction of the WorldTour licences has also concerned the teams’ association, as has the two-year licence, previously three years, another outcome of the dispute with ASO (see Freewheeling article ‘WorldTour Woes’).
As with the licence reduction, these disputes all have the potential to negatively impact the future of the sport, as sponsors reassess their involvement with teams which will require much larger budgets in order to be competitive.