Eddy Merckx and John Lelangue, members of the Ladies Tour of Qatar organisation, explained that there was no particular reason for the exclusion of the Cervélo-Bigla team from the list of invitees for this year’s race.
Cervélo-Bigla stood fifth in the UCI rankings when the invitations were issued, and its roster – reduced from 14 to 9 riders this year – includes Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who is the sixth ranked rider in the world, and Carmen Small, a former world time trial bronze medalist. Manager Thomas Campana was vocal in his disappointment at their omission.
UCI rule 2.1.007bis states that organisers of women's class 1 events must invite the "10 first UCI women's teams in the first elite women's classification by team published in the year of the event". However, no UCI ranking had been published at the time of the announcement of invited teams, and Campana accused organisers of exploiting a loophole to get around inviting them.
Speaking to reporters in Doha on the eve of the 2016 edition of the Ladies of Qatar, Merckx said that there was “no special reason” for Cervélo-Bigla’s absence, while Lelangue outlined the process in greater depth.
“It’s good to give the opportunity to some new teams who have never been in Qatar before. I think that the best riders from Bigla last year have changed team and are on the start here,” said Lelangue.
Former Bigla riders Shelley Olds (Cylance), Iris Slappendel (UnitedHealthcare) and Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-AIS) are all at this year’s Ladies Tour of Qatar with their new teams.
“We are also limited to a certain amount of teams – 12 trade teams and three national teams,” Lelangue continued. “So if we wanted to change, we would also have had to take some teams from there. There was no special reason and maybe next year they will be back.”