Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling's team manager Thomas Campana expressed his disappointment over not receiving an invitation to the UCI 2.1 Ladies Tour of Qatar held from February 2-5. Campana believed that his team deserved a spot in the race after placing fifth overall in the elite women's UCI ranking at the end of the 2015 season.
“Unfortunately, we had an early setback when the organisers of the Tour of Qatar didn’t accept our application to the race even though we were ranked fifth in the world at the time of issuing invites,” Campana said in a team press release on Tuesday.
The team announced last fall that it had brought on a new co-title sponsor Cervelo for the 2016 season and Campana was pleased to acknowledge the team's new title. "We are very excited about 2016 and welcome Cervélo to the team as a title sponsor. Cervélo Bigla Pro Cycling have wonderful partners on board and we are really excited about our team roster."
Cervelo Bigla have reduced their roster from 14 to nine because of an Olympic year. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, ranked sixth overall in the UCI standings in 2015, will lead the team that also includes Carmen Small, Clara Koppenburg, Joelle Numainville, Lisa Klein, Lotta Lepisto and Nicole Hanselmann. New riders are Canadian U23 road champion Gabrielle Pilote Fortin, and world champion on the track Stephanie Pohl.
"We’ve kept a good balance in the team with a mix of experience and really good young talent. On paper the team might not look as strong as last year but I believe the team will be stronger," Campana said.
He noted that racing Qatar might have helped some of his riders as they prepare for other events at the start of the season. He also expressed concern over the organizers decision not to invite a top-ranked team and how it could harm team sponsorship.
“For Stephanie and for Lisa Klein, the event [Ladies Tour of Qatar] would have been the last preparation before the track World Championships. That’s just an example of how these decisions affect the riders but more importantly, it has a major effect on sponsors.
“It’s a delicate situation and causes problems for our sponsors. Sponsors sign up to get coverage in certain parts of the world. In terms of Qatar, we can see that the UCI rules aren’t working. There’s a lot of loopholes within in the rules and race organisers can interrupt them they way they want.
“If UCI and ASO doesn’t understand how decisions like this can effect title sponsorship of a team, then they don’t understand how to grow the sport. Teams need guarantees of a race program in order to approach sponsors.”
In December, the Ladies Tour of Qatar announced 15 teams that will be participating in the 2016 event to include Ale Cipollini, Australia - AIS Cycling, Boels/Dolmans,Canyon SRAM, China Chongming-Liv-Champion-System, Cylance Pro Cycling Team, Equipe de France, Hitec Products, Italian Cycling Federation, Lares-Waowdeals UCI Women Team, Orica-AIS, Rabo Liv Womens Cycling Team, Team Liv Plantur, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team and Wiggle High5.
Cervelo-Bigla will unite for an opening team training camp this month. Campana said that even though they weren’t invited to the Ladies Tour of Qatar, they are motivated to do well in the other top-level races that they have been invited to participate.
“We’ve had a great response from the other race organisers so we’re very much looking forward to a great spring campaign.”
The team is also expecting to have two thirds of their riders at the Olympic Games this summer, and will plan the season accordingly.
“The Olympic games are still very important to women’s cycling. Men’s cycling has the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia but for women, the Olympics is a big event bringing added coverage that women’s cycling doesn’t get every season,” Campana said. “We have five or six athletes with a good possibility of being selected for the games. We’ve adapted the program and the group to the event.”