MILAN (VN) — Race organizer RCS Sport held true to its roots today when inviting wildcard teams to the Giro d’Italia. Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox and Colombia-Coldeportes received the nod, while several international teams will need to find another race during May.
Vini Fantini and Bardiani Valvole are Italy’s two top Pro Continental teams, and long-time Italian manager, Claudio Corti runs Colombian squad. Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela already received the first of the four available invitations thanks to winning the Italian classification last year.
Giro director Michele Acquarone told VeloNews last weekend, “Take into account, Italy is always Italy. It’s our market and so we have to keep an eye on the home teams.”
The four teams will race with the 18 ProTeams from May 4 to 26. Italy’s Cannondale and Lampre-Merida are among those teams, as is American squad Garmin-Sharp with last year’s winner Ryder Hesjedal.
Hesjedal explained at the route presentation in September that he intended to return to defend his title before racing the Tour de France. He said he looked forward to facing off with Tour champion, Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
“It’d be great for the race to have as many big riders as possible, that’s what it’s all about. When you finish, you want to know that there were good riders,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “The Giro has no shortage of good riders. Last year, I beat the world number one-ranked rider [Joaquím Rodríguez]; I’m very happy with that result.”
American second division team Novo Nordisk missed the chance to make its grand tour debut. It was among 10 candidates fighting for the three remaining wildcard slots. IAM Cycling (Swi), Landbouwkrediet-Crelan (Bel), NetApp-Endura (Ger), Europcar (Fra) and Sojasun (Fra) were also left out.
NetApp received a surprise invite last year, but failed to make a big impression on the race.
Katusha was the 10th and most complicated candidate. Last month, the UCI license commission decided not to renew its ProTeam license after four years, reportedly due to ethical reasons. The team is appealing the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but it is currently without a first or second division license. CAS has yet to announce a hearing date and Rodríguez, second last year, is planning to leave the Russian team.
“In order to respect the teams, athletes, media and crucially, the fans, RCS Sport have made the decision to allocate the wildcard places today, despite the current uncertainty regarding WorldTour licenses,” read a press release.
Acquarone told VeloNews, “RCS Sport can invite the team as long as it’s a second division team; if it can’t get a license then we are going to decide on another team. Right now, it’s 18 WorldTour teams and Katusha.”
RCS Sport considered Katusha a second division team in its selection process and included it when awarding invitations to its other races: Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Giro di Lombardia.
RCS Sport wildcard invitations
Giro d’Italia (4 wildcards, teams with 9 riders): Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, Colombia-Coldeportes, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
Tirreno-Adriatico (4 wildcards, teams with 8 riders): Katusha, MTN-Qhubeka, NetApp-Endura, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
Milan-San Remo (7 wildcards, teams with 8 riders): Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, IAM Cycling, Katusha, MTN-Qhubeka, Europcar, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
Giro di Lombardia (7 wildcards, teams with 8 riders): Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, Colombia-Coldeportes, IAM Cycling, Katusha, Europcar, NetApp-Endura, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia