Women’s teams pull out Tour de Languedoc-Rousillon as race faces last minute cancellation
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Women’s teams pull out Tour de Languedoc-Rousillon as race faces last minute cancellation

by Ben Atkins at 1:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Some top teams stay as French race seeks to guarantee rider safety in a budget shortfall

rabobankThe women’s Tour de Languedoc-Rousillan faces cancellation for the second straight year as teams desert the six-day race over safety fears. The Southern French race was due to start today with a rolling 121km stage between Villemoustaussou and Lézignan-Corbières but, from the moment team managers began to arrive at the race headquarters, it became clear that it would not take place.

The 2.2-ranked race, which is meant to go some way to replace the now defunct Tour de l’Aude - whose last edition in May 2010 was won by Emma Pooley - was called off with two week’s notice last year for similar reasons. This time, however, the race organiser held on until the last minute before admitting that the race is in trouble once again.

According to various sources the race faces a financial shortfall, which meant that police and security services had not been paid for, and so road closures and rider safety could not be guaranteed. WomensCycling.Net reports that the race organiser claims to have secured a last minute sponsor, meaning that the race could start tomorrow, but this is too late for many of the teams.

Teams that have confirmed that they have begun the long journey home include Rabobank-Liv/Giant and Boels-Dolmans, while MCipollini-Giordana, Lotto-Belisol and Specialized-lululemon will be on the start line tomorrow; assuming the race is still to go ahead.

"We were very keen to ride the race, but we have totally had it with the organisation here,” explained Koos Moerenhout, directeur sportif of Rabobank-Liv/Giant. “We have no confidence in it all. Not towards the UCI, but with respect to the race. Safety is at stake and the riders feel that it has not been taken seriously.

"It's a shame that this is happening,” Moerenhout added. “The sport doesn’t deserves this. The riders have prepared for this, and they were looking forward to this race. We have adjusted our team programme, missing, for example, the World Cup race and stage race on Chongming Island.

“It’s a terrible shame for everyone,” the former Dutch champion added. “And I'm not even talking about the costs incurred. Part of the team arrived here by plane. We have three cars, ten people. Submitting a claim, makes no sense, but we will report it to the UCI.

“What we have experienced here, absolutely can not happen at this level.”

“When we arrived it was clear to me that the first stage on Friday would not be starting,” echoed Boels-Dolmans directeur sportif Danny Stam. “The organiser told us that he would be able to start the race from Saturday, but I wasn’t sure. We want, as a team but also with the other teams, to make the women’s cycling more professional. The manner in which this organisation is treating our riders with our riders we cannot go along with.”

specialized-lululemonOne team that is due to stay is Specialized-lululemon, with Ina Teutenberg set to start her first race since suffering serious concussion in a cash in March’s Drentse 8 race in the Netherlands. The German veteran sprinter holds the outright record for stage victories at the Tour de l’Aude, and will be looking to add some from the new race - should it happen - as team manager Kristy Scrymgeour [who is currently at the Tour of California women’s invitational time trial - ed] explained why the team will be riding the race.

“Overall I think a situation like this simply highlights the challenges with women's cycling as a whole right now,” the Australian explained to VeloNation. “It's hard to say there is anybody at fault. It's easy to blame the race organiser – and yes, it seems the organisation is simply not all that 'organised.' It's extremely frustrating for teams to turn up to races and spend a lot of money getting people there, only to be told that a race is cancelled.

“Right now our team will stay in France and get on the start line tomorrow - apparently the race will start tomorrow, a day late,” she added. “The teams that stayed at the race decided together to see how the first stage goes. If it’s agreed that it is safe, we will stay for the remainder of the race.

“We came to race and that's what we'll do. But safety is the biggest factor right now.”

Whether the race will happen - and happen safely - will depend on whether the race organiser can raise the necessary funds to keep the local police happy. If this does not happen then it will surely be cancelled again. With an already shortened 2013 women’s calendar - which has already lost the Exergy Tour - it would surely be a great shame to see the attempted resurrection of one of the biggest races fail.

VeloNation has sought comment on the situation from the race organiser, the French Cycling Federation (FFC), and the International Cycling Union (UCI). To date we have received no response from any of the parties concerned.


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