RCS, organisers of the Giro d’Italia and other major races have announced the wildcard invitations for 2012. The 18 World Tour teams* are invited automatically, leaving the organiser to pick four teams to complete the list of teams. The idea is that the elite teams ride the biggest races but organisers are free to invite some extra teams, to bring in some more domestic riders or to ensure some exciting riders outside of the top teams can ride and bring something extra.
The four teams opening the prosecco today are Androni Giocattoli-CIPI, Colnago-CSF Inox, Farnese Vini-Selle Italia and Team NetApp.
It’s a tricky choice, in order to give some teams a chance the organiser has to exclude others. Indeed last year RCS bent the rules to get special dispensation for a fifth wildcard invitation, meaning 23 teams of nine riders and therefore 207 riders, above the normal cap of 200 riders imposed by the UCI rules. And in 2009 there was a fuss when reigning Italian champion Filippo Simeoni and the Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce were not invited.
In a bid to make the process more transparent RCS have set out the selection criteria in public. 14 teams made the first cut, now whittled down to four. In years past the wildcards were announced later giving teams a chance to impress race organisers with early season success but this also saw teams chasing selection for the race and arriving tired for the event itselt. Indeed this method is now on the way out, ASO also moved to announce invitations for the Tour de France in January.
The four picks mean eyebrows are raised as there’s no place for the likes of home team Acqua e Sapone, including riders like Stefano Garzelli and Danilo Di Luca. And many might have wanted to see Project 1t4i and Marcel Kittel in action but if his team is picked for the Tour de France then he might not even have started the Giro.
The choice implies the race organisers, under the new direction of Michele Acquarone, are aiming to open the race up a little with a few surprise candidates and NetApp are the wilder of the wildcard picks. A German team with a Californian sponsor, the squad took just one win in 2011 with Blaž Jarc putting his time trial skills to use in the 2.2 Tour of Gallipoli in Turkey. But the team did crack the top-3 in other races like the Tour of Austria and Tour of Britain last year. Obviously the Giro is going to be even bigger. There was talk of Columbia-Coldeportes getting a ride but for better or worse the most exciting Colombians are on other squads, for example Uran and Henao with Sky, Quintana with Movistar and Betancur at Acqua e Sapone; although Fabio Duarte is capable of giving RCS second thoughts.
But with Lampre-ISD and Liquigas-Cannondale the race will be very Italian. Farnese Vini should come with Andrea Guardini, the promising sprinter whilst Colnago-CSF bring sprinters like Modolo and climbers too; Androni-CIPI earn their place with the erratic José Rujano, a stage winner and seventh overall last year and the only rider capable of following Contador.
The race starts on Saturday 5 May in Herning, Denmark.
In addition RCS also announced the invitations for other races:
Tirreno-Adriatico: Acqua e Sapone, Colnago-CSF Inox, Colombia-Coldeportes, Farnese Vini-Selle Italia.
Milan-Sanremo: Acqua e Sapone, Colnago-CSF Inox, Colombia-Coldeportes, Farnese Vini-Selle Italia, Project 1t4i, Team Type 1–Sanofi, Utensilnord Named
Il Lombardia: Acqua e Sapone, Androni Giocattoli-CIPI, Colnago-CSF Inox, Colombia-Coldeportes, Farnese Vini-Selle Italia, Project 1t4i, Utensilnord Named.
- * the 18 automatic invites are Ag2r, Astana, BMC, Euskaltel-Euskadi, FDJ-Big Mat, Garmin-Cervélo, Greenedge, Katusha, Lampre-ISD, Liquigas-Cannondale, Lotto Belisol, Movistar, Omega Pharma-Quickstep, Rabobank, Radioshack-Nissan, Sky, Saxo Bank and Vacansoleil-DCM.