Lotto-Soudal Confirm Boycott of World Championship Team Time Trial

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.

Grand Prix de Wallonie -Preview

At lunchtime today, 18 teams will set off on the Grand Prix de Wallonie, a one-day race through the Wallonia region of Belgium.  The race, categorised as part of the UCI Europe Tour, was first run at professional level in 1935, and has seen a total of 36 Belgian wins from 56 editions, the most recent winner being Jens Debusschere of Lotto-Soudal.  So who has the wheels to race for the 2016 win?

Fresh from claiming victory in the 2015 edition of the GP, Lotto-Soudal return to Wallonia with a team brimming with Belgian talent.  Of the 8 riders participating for last years’ winning team, 6 are Belgian racers, with New Zealand’s Greg Hendersen and France’s Tony Gallopin adding some international flair.  Lotto-Soudal are one of five WorldTour teams in the race, the others being Etixx-Quickstep, FDJ, Ag2r La Mondiale and IAM Cycling.

The parcours is undulating throughout, beginning at Beaufays near Liège, and ending at Namur and the famed climb up to the Citadelle.  The gradient on the final climb averages 6% and tops 8% over some sections, and is sure to separate the men from the boys coming after 200k of hard racing, and featuring some technical cobbles.

2016_grand_prix_de_wallonie_profile

Julien Vermote, wearing number 22 for Etixx-Quickstep, will be looking to capitalise on his success at last weeks’ Tour of Britain, where he wore the leader’s jersey for 4 days.  The team fielded by Etixx-Quickstep is a young one, including Vermote and the talented Petr Vakoc, who performed well in Canada recently before unfortunately crashing in the finishing straight of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal.  This young squad is our pick for the 57th Wallonian GP, coming off the back of a successful season for these stars of the future.

Look out for the Freewheeling race round-up later on!