Équipe Paule Ka has been forced to pulled out of the Giro dell’Emilia after seven of their bikes were stolen on the eve of the race.
The Swiss-registered women’s UCI team were scheduled to line-up in the Italian one-day race on Tuesday (August 18), which will feature a number of top tier women’s teams.
But on Monday, the team announced that seven of their Chapter2 bikes had been stolen overnight from the team hotel in Bologna.
After offering a reward for the safe return of the bikes, the team announced shortly after that they would have to pull out of Tuesday’s race because they didn’t have time to replace the machines.
A statement from the team said: “It is with regret that we announce the withdrawal of Équipe Paule Ka from tomorrow’s Giro dell’Emilia. Following the theft of our Chapter2 Huru and Rere bicycles from the team hotel in Bologna, there was insufficient time to replace the bicycles ahead of the event. Team management has decided there is therefore no other option but to withdraw from the race.
“This recent series of events has left everyone in the team extremely dismayed and frustrated, and we once again call upon anyone with information about the whereabouts of our bicycles to please contact us.”
The team is offering a €5,000 (£4,500) reward for the return of the bikes, which were taken from the Amati Design Hotel, Via Rigosa, Bologna.
Thieves got away with two Chapter 2 Huru machines in black and five Chapter2 Rere bikes in white.
Équipe Paule Ka, previously Bigla-Katusha, only narrowly avoided closure this season after all their funding was withdrawn.
Danish squad Bigla found themselves on the brink of closure after 100 per cent of their funding was withdrawn, forcing management to take drastic measures in the hopes of staying afloat.
The team launched a fundraising campaign in April to raise 170,00 Swiss Francs (£142,000).
While the fundraising campaign fell well short of the target, French fashion house Paule Ka has stepped in to fund the team through to 2024.
The team has revealed it will also be seeking a WorldTour license in the hopes of stepping up to the top tier in women’s racing.