Simon Cope, the manager of Team Wiggins – and the former British Cycling employee at the centre of the ‘Jiffy Bag’ controversy – has expressed his disappointment at it missing out on an invitation to the Tour de Yorkshire, which takes place from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 April.
The UCI Continental team, and its founder Sir Bradley Wiggins, who retired from professional cycling in December, have participated in the first two editions of the race, but will be missing this time round.
At the first edition of the race two years ago, Wiggins was by far the biggest draw, many people who had never gone to watch a bike race before taking to the streets to catch a glimpse of the Olympic champion and Tour de France winner.
Wiggins was back at the race last year, but abandoned during the first stage, saying he needed to focus on his preparations for Rio, where in the team pursuit he clinched the fifth Olympic gold medal of his career.
But the team was not among those named for this year’s edition earlier this week by Welcome to Yorkshire, which organises the race in partnership with Tour de France organisers ASO and British Cycling.
Quoted in The Mirror, Cope said: “It's very disappointing and it is very much a surprise. I don't really know why. It's a very strange one.
"I do feel that with the riders we have got, we would have been a top-10 contender in the GC, all things going well.
"Good or bad press at the moment, there's a percentage of the UK population who will be going to the race who want to see Wiggins there,” he added – although given its eponymous founder is no longer riding, it’s perhaps questionable how big a draw the team might be.
"You would have thought that we would have got in, but the organisers have made their selection and that's it, we can't do anything about it,” Cope added.
“We will have to go and find another bike race to do."
Cope appeared earlier this month before a House of Commons select committee that is investigating doping within sport.
In June 2011, when he was manager of the Great Britain elite women’s road team, he delivered a package to former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman that contained medicine destined for Wiggins, who had just won the race.
The contents of that package are also the subject of a probe by UK Anti-doping, and some are linking the fact that Team Wiggins did not secure a place on next month’s race with the potential distraction it might cause because of those ongoing investigations.
Welcome to Yorkshire said: "We had 49 teams apply for the 36 men's and women's places on offer.
"Six British continental teams applied for the five slots available for the men's race. Unfortunately, someone had to miss out and this time it was Team Wiggins.
"We have a good relationship with them though and they are welcome to apply for any future editions of the race."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.