All US Continental teams and women's pro teams will receive an automatic invitation to the Team Time Trial World Championships this September in Richmond, Virginia, rather than having to qualify via UCI rankings, organisers of the race confirmed to Cyclingnews this week.
Although all 17 WorldTour trade teams are compelled to compete in the team time trial, previously only the top 20 teams in the UCI Europe Tour rankings, the top five from the America and Asia tours, and the leaders of the Africa and Oceana tours would have qualified for the event. The team time trial is the only world championship event that is contested by trade teams rather than national teams.
Richmond 2015 Chief Operating Officer Tim Miller told Cyclingnews on Monday that race organisers have always viewed the event not just as an opportunity to showcase Richmond, but domestic cycling as well. The group has been working with USA Cycling for months to provide an opportunity for more US teams to take part.
“The road Worlds hasn't been in the US for almost 30 years, and it's a big deal,” Miller said. “And so, with USA Cycling's help – they really led the charge to get this done with the UCI – but we thought it was important to let as many of the domestic teams as possible showcase their programs and showcase their sponsors, because it's an important thing for cycling in this country overall.”
Jelly Belly-Maxxis General Manager Danny Van Haute welcomed the news, saying it would take pressure off teams to pile up the UCI points that were needed to get an invitation.
“It would have been difficult anyway to get top 5 [in the UCI America Tour] because a lot of the races are in South America, and not so many here,” Van Haute said. “This is great news for everybody. I think it's great for all the Continental teams and great for Jelly Belly. We all know Jelly Belly is a great supporter of cycling. It's the 16th season for us, and now we're at the World Championships.”
Teams that have already spent money traveling to races specifically for the UCI points on hand may have been less enthusiastic about the late change than Van Haute was, but the decision to invite all the US teams will likely boost the number of participants, which last year was the lowest since 2012.
Earlier this year some of the teams balked at the idea of sending an eight-rider squad to far flung locations for one day of racing, which typically lasts about an hour. A report in De Telegraaf, a Dutch newspaper, claimed that the UCI was separating the team time trial from the road world championships in 2015 and 2016 because of costs that trade teams would incur in traveling to Richmond and to Doha in Qatar for 2016.
Teams – in particular the WorldTour teams that are required to compete – estimated the cost of attending at €35,000, leading to speculation that Professional Continental teams could decide not to ride.
But Miller told Cyclingnews that such speculation had nothing to do with allowing all the domestic teams into the event.
"We anticipate a lot of the same teams that typically compete in the team time trial will do so here," he said, adding that he believes the increased participation from US domestic teams will add to the excitement surrounding the team time trial.
"A lot of those domestic teams have got sort of their following and their fan base that follows them around, so that's good for us, good for them and I think good for everybody,” Miller said. “It helps continue to build on cycling in this country."
Organisers are also hoping that some of the domestic teams' sponsors will view their participation as a marketing opportunity as well.
"We're going to have a big fanfest, which is what we're calling our interactive expo," Miller said."There will be opportunities for sponsors to engage in that. There will be all sorts of private hospitality opportunities. There are certainly opportunities for the sponsors of those domestic teams to take advantage of this big global platform that is the World Championships."
The team time trial was reintroduced to the championships in 2012. Omega Pharma-QuickStep won the event in 2012 and 2013; BMC captured last year's title in Ponferrada. Twenty-nine men's teams and 14 women's teams competed in the 2014 event.