The Tour of Turkey risks losing its WorldTour status next year, with only four WorldTour teams signed up for the 2017 edition in what will be the inaugural running of the race as part of cycling's premier tier.
While WorldTour events ordinarily oblige the participation of all 18 WorldTour teams, the UCI's WorldTour reforms that came into effect this year stipulate that races that are new to the series are voluntary.
However, if a race fails to attract a minimum of 10 WorldTour teams for two consecutive editions its registration will be removed from the UCI calendar.
Cyclingnews understands that Astana, Bora-Hansgrohe, Trek-Segafredo, and UAE Team Emirates are the only WorldTour teams who have confirmed their participation in the 2017 edition, which will be held from October 10-15. All other 14 teams have decided to stay away, despite there being no calendar clashes other than with a few fourth-tier one-day races. There will be seven Professional Continental teams along with a Turkish national team.
The Tour of Turkey's troubles were evident when the race was forced to move from its traditional April date. The race has been going since 1963, but the volatile political climate, combined with the clash with the Ardennes Classic, forced the organisers to ask for a date later in the year.
There have been serious security concerns in Turkey in recent months. War has been raging in neighbouring Syria, and the Turkish government had to overcome an attempted military coup last year. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan consolidated power in April with sweeping constitutional reforms passed via a referendum whose legitimacy was called into question, and the country continues in a 'state of emergency' with a high risk of terror attacks.
As such, WorldTour teams have been reluctant to travel to Turkey to compete.
"[In 2016] every hundred metres you saw an agent. But since then much has happened: new attacks, a coup attempt. I read that since then 10,000 people were arrested," said Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant earlier this year. "For all these reasons, we decided not to go this year."
The change in dates raised question marks over whether the race would go ahead at all this year, and that was only enhanced by a general lack of information about the race over the past few months. Only in the last two weeks have the race's website and social media channels started communicating, with full details of the routes for all seven stages unveiled on Monday.
The race will enjoy WorldTour status this year, with WorldTour points allocated accordingly. Despite suggestions that the race would return to its April slot in 2018, it has been included on the recently published 2018 WorldTour calendar in the October slot. Under the new rules, if the race does not attract 10 WorldTour teams next year it will lose its status, though Cyclingnews understands it is likely to be downgraded back to 2.HC status anyway from 2018.
The Tour of Turkey was first held in 1963, and it was first included on the UCI calendar in 2005 as a 2.2 race, before reappearing in 2008 with 2.1 status and being upgraded to 2.HC in 2010. Last year only two WorldTour teams took part.