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Giro d’Italia organizer ready to name 2014 teams

MILAN (VN) — The Giro d’Italia will name its 22 teams this week or, at the latest, next week, according to organizer RCS Sport. It is deciding on the final three wildcards to start with the 18 UCI ProTeams on May 9 in Belfast.

RCS Sport, owner of Milano-Sanremo, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Giro, must decide between eight Pro Continental teams in its final selection: Bardiani-CSF, Caja Rural, Colombia, IAM Cycling, MTN-Qhubeka, UnitedHealthcare, Wanty, and YellowFluo-Neri Sottoli. Bardiani, Colombia, Vini Fantini, and Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela comprised the race’s four wildcard teams in 2013. Androni already won the first of four wildcard spots for 2014 by finishing as the top second-division team in the Italian Cup rankings for 2013.

The Giro used its Twitter account last week to post a photo with the eight teams and their jerseys: “3 spots for 8 teams. Which team should receive the wildcard for Giro d’Italia 2014? And why?” It made a similar post again Monday.

Bardiani, Colombia, and MTN?

Italian team YellowFluo made the list, but may miss RCS Sport’s top race. In fact, the organizer left the team off its first round of fan voting publicity in November. When the team raced as Vini Fantini in last year, its riders Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio — winner of the Bardonecchia stage and ninth overall — tested positive for EPO.

Without YellowFluo, the Giro has seven teams to select from, each from a different country.

Bardiani-CSF: The Italian team promotes young, local talent. Last year, Enrico Battaglin won the stage to Serra San Bruno and Stefano Pirazzi the blue mountains jersey.

Caja Rural: The Spanish team may have an easier time earning an invite to the Vuelta a España, though it does have (controversial) multiple-time Tour de France stage winner Luis León Sánchez in its ranks this year.

Colombia: The team raced the Giro last year and featured in most mountain stages with Fabio Duarte.

IAM Cycling: The second-year Swiss team has yet to race a grand tour. However, its focus is on contesting the Tour de France with Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel and Mathias Frank.

MTN-Qhubeka: Africa’s first professional team could make more history. After racing RCS Sport’s Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, which it won with Gerald Ciolek, the South African team appears ready for a grand tour debut.

UnitedHealthcare: The U.S. team won the Tour of the Gila overall and stages in the Volta a Portugal and the Tour of Qinghai Lake in 2013. It has yet to race a grand tour, but boasts former Giro stage winner Robert Förster and Baby Giro winner Davide Frattini on its roster.

Wanty: The new Belgian team signed several of Vacansoleil-DCM’s former riders, including Björn Leukemans.

Assuming the Giro’s brass overlooks hometeam YellowFluo, Bardiani, Colombia, and MTN appear to be at the front of the invitation line.

Consolation prizes

On the same day, almost as consolation prizes, RCS Sport will award the more numerous wildcard spots for Milano-Sanremo, Tirreno-Adriatico, and Il Lombardia. Teams that miss the Giro nod should receive invitations to at least one of those races and, like MTN last year, could use the opportunity to prove themselves for a 2015 Giro invitation.