SAN PEDRO DEL PINATAR, Spain (VN) – Carlos Sastre stepped off the Geox-TMC bus Friday morning to be welcomed by a phalanx of cameras and fans for the 2008 Tour de France champion’s first race of the season.
Sastre and his Geox-TMC team have their fingers crossed that the Giro d’Italia will be part of their future. Giro director Angelo Zomegnan is expected to announce four wild-card Giro invitations on Monday.
“We hope we can race the Giro. The decision is not in our hands, but we would bring a strong team to the Giro,” Sastre told VeloNews on Friday morning. “I feel good to be racing on this team. It’s the first race of the season for me here, so I cannot expect to be with the best, but I hope to be in top form by May.”
Geox-TMC is putting a brave face on the devastating news in January by the Tour de France to not include them among its wild-card invitations. Team sponsor Geox, an Italian shoemaker, is sticking by the team, but there’s huge pressure on the squad to secure a berth at the Giro and the Vuelta a España later this season.
Sport director Joxean Matxin Fernández says Geox-TMC will bring its full lineup to the Giro.
“We have both Carlos and Denis (Menchov), both of whom have won grand tours and will be among the favorites for overall victory. We will have one of the strongest teams for the Giro,” Fernández told VeloNews. “We hope we get an invitation. We believe we have a strong team and that we deserve it, but, of course, the decision is not ours to make.”
Zomegnan told VeloNews in an interview earlier this year he would likely invite four teams to round out the Giro field that already includes 18 ProTeam squads.
There’s some speculation that Vancansoleil could be snubbed in light of its recent troubles involving star riders Riccardo Riccò and Ezequiel Mosquera, both entangled in ongoing and unresolved doping allegations.
Vacansoleil is guaranteed a place in all the major races thanks to its ProTeam status and it would be a major breach by Zomegnan to not invite the team, but the Giro director is known for his independent streak. As of now, Vancansoleil’s ProTeam status remains intact and officials say they have every intention of racing the Giro.
Zomegnan has already suggested that Farnese Vini, home of current Italian champion Giovanni Visconti, will be included. Several other top pro continental teams are angling for a bid, including Acqua e Sapone, Androni Giocattoli and Colnago-CSF Inox, all three of which were in last year’s Giro. Other teams, such as Europcar and Team Type 1, are also bucking for a Giro invite.