The UCI might have been able to avert a total WorldTour boycott of the World Championships team time trial, but there won't be a full complement of top-tier teams as Lotto Soudal confirmed to Cyclingnews they have decided not to compete.
The Belgian team feels that the event, held in Qatar next month, is not justifiable in terms of costs, offering little return in terms of exposure for sponsors and no reward from a sporting perspective as there will be no WorldTour points on offer.
They were able to make the choice after the UCI made the event non-compulsory in reaction to a planned boycott on the part of all 18 WorldTour teams, united under the AIGCP. The group labelled the original arrangement 'exploitative' as top-tier teams were required to attend but – unlike other WorldTour races – didn't receive any financial contribution towards costs.
Cyclingnews understands the UCI offered teams €2,000 each in a bid to avoid a boycott of its flagship event. However, Lotto Soudal claim that the sum of their trip to the Middle East would come to between €40,000 and €50,000 – all for a race that holds very little prospective reward to them.
"There are teams who go to the Worlds to win, but we go to perform as well as possible – 6th to 10th is the best possible scenario for us," team boss Marc Sergeant told Cyclingnews on Wednesday,
"The other thing is the WorldTour points. Last year we gained 130 points with our seventh-place finish, but this year there are none on offer so we don't have to go to defend our WorldTour ranking.
"The third reason is visibility. You have to be honest, it's only the four or five top teams who get any camera time. For the others it's much less."
All that led to a pretty clear conclusion.
"A trip to Qatar would cost us between €40,000-50,000. For not much publicity, for a lower than top-five finish, and for no WorldTour points. It doesn't justify the costs. For us, after reflecting on the arguments for and against, it was pretty clear to decide not to go."
Despite choosing to skip the TTT, Lotto Soudal's decision was more of a polite declining than an act of protest, and they praised the UCI for negotiating and compromising with teams.
"Things have to progress more like that in the future. It's not only about the money, but being in discussion with the teams. This case was more about communication."
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