With the Giro making its picks for May, ASO will also choose four teams for 2013 Tour de France. Who gets the golden ticket?
Once again the rules: 18 teams qualify automatically leaving ASO to chose from the second tier of UCI Pro Continental teams.
The full list of teams eligible is Accent Jobs-Wanty, Androni Giocattolo-Venezuela, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, Bretagne-Séché Environnement, Caja Rural, CCC Polsat, Champion System Pro Cycling, Cofidis, Colombia, Europcar, IAM Cycling, Crelan-Euphony, Team MTN-Qhubeka, Rusvelo, Sojasun, Team NetApp-Endura, Team Novonordisk-Type 1, Topsport-Vlaanderen, United Healthcare and Vini Fantini.
Unknown for now. Last year ASO told me the picks would be made in February… they were announced in April. But it seems likely ASO will run Paris-Nice and the Criterium International in order to see how invited teams perform before the final choice.
First let’s deduce that any team doing the Giro by wildcard won’t ride the Tour. Androni, Bardiani-CSF and Vini Fantini live for their home Giro, it matters more than the Tour. The Colombian team had a chance of being picked for the Tour, but in riding the Giro it’s less likely they’ll ride. Perhaps they will get an invite for 2014.
Now we look at the list and see who is likely. Europcar are guaranteed, as certain as you can get in the volatile world of pro cycling. A Tour de France without Thomas Voeckler is like July without the sunflowers. Plus there’s Pierre Rolland, twice the winner of a big mountain stage.
This leaves three places. We need at least another French squad and Cofidis looks likely. The team has slipped down the rankings over the years but new recruits like Coppel, Le Mevel and Daniel Navarro could get early season results to displace memories of Rémy Di Gregorio being ejected last year and surely it’s make or break for Rein Taraamae.
Pick another French team and Sojasun look the next choice. They rode the Tour last summer but have lost a few riders meaning they’ll count on Julien Simon who took several wins last year including the GP Wallonnie and two stages in the Tour of Catalonia. For me they’re a likely pick but far from automatic.
A lesser chance is Bretagne-Séché. The team from the Brittany region say they expect to ride the Tour de France. Last year the manager said he’d resign if the team didn’t get invited. So he resigned although his move wasn’t accepted. They’ve got some interesting, younger riders but probably not enough to seduce Christian Prudhomme. They took 12 wins last year but the majority of these came in lesser .2 rated races. They could get an invite to Paris-Nice as a trial, if they impress then they get a chance.
Looking at the others on the list IAM Cycling stand out. It got some French management who might appeal to ASO but the main draw is the riders with the likes of Heinrich Haussler, Thomas Lofkvist and Gustav Erik Larsson amongst others. The team is new but the riders are not. Their absence from the Giro only makes them more likely to do the Tour. Giro rejects NepApp-Endura seem less likely, they’ve lost star rider Jon Tiernan-Locke who would have been their attraction, even if Sky bring the “so British” touch already.
What makes teams more attractive to ASO? Being French is a big bonus of course. They want to see exciting racing, attacks and self-expression. At times race boss Christian Prudhomme reminds me of a romantic character from a Pagnol novel, always seeing the good in everything, his speeches are full of optimism and pride. He’s surely more realistic in private. ASO want the best racing possible and some fireworks along the way. French teams are necessary but nobody gets a ride out of charity.
Katusha don’t have a licence of course and if they were to get back into the sport then plenty would change. It is said if they get back into the top-18 then it is said another team would be ejected to make room. I’d prefer to see 19 teams for one year in the top league but this would leave ASO with only three picks. Or if Katusha only holds a pro continental licence then it is likely they would be selected given Joaquim Rodriguez is basing his season on July. The trouble with the Katusha story is that we can only project and speculate. Imagine how it must annoy ASO.
Europcar are certain to ride. Given French teams are a priority Cofidis seems the obvious pick too. After this I see Sojasun and IAM Cycling as the next picks. But the Katusha story is not over and if the Russian team is back it could be at the expense of Sojasun.
Overall there seems to be less of a story to the picks. Yes ASO will have some French teams but when it comes to picking others, the level of the race is so high that there’s no room for romance. However like RCS, there is a grand tour but there are also other races. Don’t be surprised to see wilder wildcards for the likes of Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné.