Omega Pharma-Lotto not given an invitation to the Tour of Oman
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Omega Pharma-Lotto not given an invitation to the Tour of Oman

by Jered Gruber at 4:25 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Early season races in the desert looking for equal representation from first and second tier teams

The opening races of the 2011 season might not be in the locale originally planned by the Omega Pharma-Lotto team. The second edition of the Tour of Oman will take place next February 15-20. At the moment, sixteen teams have been invited, but interestingly, Belgium's ProTeam Omega Pharma-Lotto, has not been given an invitation.

Speaking with La Derniere Heure, Omega Pharma-Lotto manager, Marc Sergeant, was not pleased.

"If we do not get to race in Qatar or Oman, that would be a big problem. We have provided programs already, and now it's probably too late to find an alternative. We still have a little hope, as the selection is not quite final."

While the Tour of Oman is certainly not the most important race of the year, not by a long shot, a non-selection there could have lasting repercussions when the racing turns extremely important in April.

The organizers of the Tour de France, the Amaury Sports Organization, are responsible for both the Tour of Oman and the Tour of Qatar. If an invite isn't forthcoming for the Tour of Oman, it looks likely that one won't come from the Tour of Qatar either.

The UCI has requested that there be equal representation from both the first division ProTeams and the second division Professional Continental squads. With the current selection, there are ten ProTeams and six Professional Continental teams.

Missing out on two big stage races at the beginning of the season in the Middle East could have a big effect on a rider looking to make the step into the rarefied air as a legend: Philippe Gilbert. The Monaco-based Walloon enjoyed yet another sterling season in 2010, yet another step forward, and in 2011, the stage looks set for him to add some more Monuments to his palmares: Milano-Sanremo and in particular, the Tour of Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, stand as major goals for the Belgian.

Gilbert wasn't set to take part in the Middle Eastern races though. He's slated to take part in the Challenge Mallorca and the Tour of Algarve. It would be the riders that will be supporting him in April that will suffer from the loss of racing in the desert. If the team doesn't gain admission, then that side of the team will miss out on some important racing, and when it comes time for the Monuments of the Spring, the lost racing time could be vital.

Of more importance though: will the UCI continue to attempt to create a more equal structure in the lesser races? If they do, there could be many repeats of the situation that Omega Pharma-Lotto is experiencing now.



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