Three French teams will round out the 2013 Tour de France peloton as organizers confirmed their final selection for the 22-team field for the 100th of the French tour Saturday.
Cofidis, Europcar and Sojasun all earned invites to the 100th edition of the Tour, June 29 to July 21.
The big sweepstakes loser is IAM Cycling, the new Swiss outfit that’s earned invitations to all the major events this spring. Snubbed by the Tour and the Giro d’Italia, IAM will hope the Vuelta a España hands it an invitation to compete in a grand tour in its debut season.
Others missing out were NetApp, which earned an invitation to the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, and French squad Bretagne.
“IAM was very close to making the selection, and we regret not having a fourth invitation, as it would have been much simpler,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme told AFP. “The team is solid and no doubt it will be a selection for the future.
“Between the two teams (IAM and Sojasun), the difference was not monumental in terms of results. The selection of three French teams also reflects their performances since the beginning of the season.”
Speculation was growing last week that the Tour was leaning toward selecting three French teams for the 100th edition of cycling’s most important stage race.
With Katusha’s entree into the WorldTour guaranteed after a long fight in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, that meant 19 teams already had an assured spot in the Tour.
Cofidis and Europcar, both consistent performers in the Tour, were all but assured of places. Sojasun, a small, underperforming French team, was on the bubble.
The Tour was reluctant to mimic the Giro’s decision to invite four extra squads, and limited its choice to three wildcards.
“The regulations set a limit of 22 teams — with 200 riders, the peloton is already big enough,” Prudhomme said. “We also know the Tour is important to the teams, but it would have stretched the maximum the constraints of the organization.”
The Tour’s wild-card decision came weeks later than expected. Officials said privately it was logistically impossible to include a fourth team even it wanted to due to difficulties in securing hotel rooms across France.
Sources said the Tour organization struggled in deciding whether to include Sojasun at the expense of IAM Cycling, which — on paper at least — has much deeper talent than the French squad.
For his part, Serge Beucherie, general manager of IAM Cycling, could not quite hide his disappointment. “We are disappointed not to be selected for the Tour de France, mainly because we have the talent and resources. Even though we have not won a great deal, we are on a sporting level to compete at the Tour. Naturally we respect the ASO’s decision, and will only have to work even harder next year.”
Teams for 2013 Tour de France (June 29-July 21)
France (5): AG2R La Mondiale, Cofidis, Europcar, FDJ-BigMat, Sojasun
Netherlands (3): Argos-Shimano, Blanco, Vacansoleil-DCM
Belgium (2): Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Lotto
Spain (2): Euskaltel-Euskadi, Movistar
United States (2): BMC, Garmin-Sharp
Italy (2): Cannondale, Lampre-Merida
Australia (1): Orica-GreenEdge
Denmark (1): Saxo-Tinkoff
Great Britain (1): Team Sky
Kazakhstan (1): Astana
Luxembourg (1): RadioShack-Leopard
Russia (1): Katusha