No Omega men in Oman is a bad omen

Friday, 17 December 2010

You could argue that Belgium is the world’s top cycling nation. You can state with more certainty that Omega Pharma- Lotto is Belgium’s top team, thanks to the presence of Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Van Den Broeck, not to mention André Greipel.

Yet despite all of this the team didn’t get invited to the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman because the team initially declined to send the right men and ASO preferred to pick another more hungry team.

Whilst Qatar and Oman are not high profile target events they are increasingly becoming important, in the way the early season races in France once used to be: essential training, a chance to mark rivals and to get the team on the road. Above all a way to tune the legs in warmer weather ahead of the spring classics. So the lack of an invite is a pain for the Belgium outfit.

It’s a glimpse into the future where teams might struggle to meet their obligations all season. The rules require World Tour teams to participate in the major races but the risk is that “B teams” are sent and thus the organiser is forced to exclude a more hungry local team. Take the Tour of California, it has all the ingredients to become a great race but some European teams simply have little interest in showcasing their brands to a US audience, they prefer the Giro, Dauphiné and Tour de France. The likes of Ag2r or Lampre have to attend whilst some US teams get excluded.

Thinking aloud, what about a “continent rule”, where a team registered in one continent, eg Europe, can forfeit its participation in a race on another continent, eg Australia, to a local team? Perhaps capping this joker card to no more than three times a season?

Either way, if the World Tour offers certainty of entry, the duties this imposes on some teams means rosters will be stretched and from time to time. It’s a shame if teams end up sending sub-standard squads whilst keener local squads get frozen out.

Anonymous December 17, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Do you think this is down to globalization or a busy season? I like the suggestion of a joker card for teams to get out of a few races a year.

Alex Murray December 17, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Surely the appearance fees for Qatar and Oman far outweigh the cost of sending a team? All the team vehicles are provided, you've just got to get bikes, riders and enough kit out there.

Strikes me as very near sighted to not want to go to those races given their growing importance. Also one of their sponsors is in that region: Q8, Kuwait Petroleum.

Sounds like a team out of step with changing times.

TheInnerRing December 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Anonymous: maybe both. Team sizes are fixed yet they are required to travel further and from January to October. That said, a team is capped at 30 riders, no problem to send a few guys to Oman. It's more that not every team can send their stars to every race.

Alex: ASO said no because Omega weren't sending a star rider, preferring to give the likes of Pegasus a chance to strut their stuff instead. It wasn't so much that they weren't going, more that they only wanted to send lesser riders.

Paul December 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

That is the best title ever!

Touriste-Routier December 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm

The long season doesn't line up with the "stars" goals. Increased specialization makes it virtually impossible for the teams to send their A-team to all of the World/Pro Tour races (what are they calling it this year?).

Yet the teams are required to participate (or at least submit a roster) if they want a first division license. The race organizers pay a hefty fee to be part of the World/Pro Tour, so they expect top riders, but clearly they all can't get them.

It is a fatal flaw in the design of the UCI's attempt to make a league

Flashing Pedals December 19, 2010 at 10:01 am

Yes, sure pro teams are obliged to enter/send riders all over the world, when the level of team is at ProTour/WorldTour (Whatever Next Years Tour is called) but the dangerous point here, is that race organisers are dictating who/what/where. again…

Its the eternal battle of control.
ASO want it & largely have it.
UCI want it, but keep selling out the sport,
MCQ wants it all : Presidency,Control,Media,
Travel Services,Event Management,
Rider Agents,Race Organisers,Brand Marketing Negotiations, Control Donations.

In the words of an infamouse Essex businessman.
He who controls the doors, controls the choice.

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