Tour de France Wildcards

Thursday, 10 January 2013

With the Giro making its picks for May, ASO will also choose four teams for 2013 Tour de France. Who gets the golden ticket?

Rules
Once again the rules: 18 teams qualify automatically leaving ASO to chose from the second tier of UCI Pro Continental teams.

Candidates
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.

Timing
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.

Deduction
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.

Europcar team

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.

Christian Prudhomme Tour ASO

Which teams will seduce the romantic Monsieur Prudhomme

Values
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.

Russian roulettes
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.

Conclusion
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.

Dachs January 10, 2013 at 11:09 am

There seems to be two levels in the profi conti teams. Cofidis and IAM are almost good for world tour when others like Accent or Caja Rural can never be imagined riding the Tour de France.

ProTourCyclist January 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Europcar, Cofidis, Katusha and United Healthcare – should get rides.
The likes of Heinrich Haussler and his old ball team, should count their blessings if they are invited.

Nick January 10, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Unless Joaquim Rodriguez ends up at IAM…

Shawn January 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

However, if Purito bolts from a pro-Continental Katusha, then they become an unlikely wild card.

ProTourCyclist January 10, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Still more panache than iam’s catfood team. Certainly more likely to finish with a full compliment in Paris.

Brian January 10, 2013 at 8:35 pm

At this point Purito is looking to leave and that will leave Rusvelo in the cold for most Grand Tours.
Any word on when the CAS will make a ruling in regards to Rusvelo?

Nick January 10, 2013 at 10:09 pm

You mean Katusha?

Chrisman January 10, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Net App Endura? Yes pls

Craig January 11, 2013 at 12:02 am

Personally I think there will be less French wildcard teams and more of an international feel. As it is the 100th year running they have made the course purely French but I think it will be the opposite for the teams. The wider the audience the better.

The major country missing from the the Top Teams is Germany, if there is a German team I believe it will get a wild card.

Dave G January 11, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Di Gregorio was at Astana last season when he left the Tour.

The Inner Ring January 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

It was Cofidis http://www.lequipe.fr/Cyclisme-sur-route/Actualites/Cofidis-suspend-di-gregorio/297628

But he’d been with Astana the year before and this was enough for him to be placed under surveillance by the French police until they rousted him during the Tour.

Matt H January 12, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Are Cofidis really that likely? They’ve been woeful in recent Tours, and virtually anonymous. I know ASO want French teams, but Europecar and FDJ (when they lost their WT status) at least enliven the race. I’m not sure that the boys in red add anything.

Chrisman January 13, 2013 at 1:14 am

I don’t like Cofidis, but they have at least bothered to sign some riders and if I’m not mistaken RDG’s doping offence was actually reasonably innocuous, not the sort to throw a team off a tour for. And they’ve signed Coppel from Sojaur, and he’s the best rider in either team probably. I’d like to see an Italian team, as the domestic squads always provide value in the Giro, but it seems politics won’t allow that. Same with the Colombians (yes I am just regurgitating INRG as my own knowledge).

Sojaur will probably do naff all but let the French have a 3rd team. Does having more anyboy domestic teams make up for the fact that the French never have any riders doing anything? Or does it compound this fact? Whatever, it’s their tour and they (rightly) call the shots. However, for the 4th team I see no reason at all not to consider Net App Endura (henceforth known as NAPPERA-pronounced ‘Nappy-Ra’).

What, so because Sky have the best team that means no other brit-influenced team can ride? Yeah I know the French may hate Sky and they definitely hate the English, but I can’t see Chrissy PDH being that silly. Nappera have some other Central European connections so really they seem a logical choice, especially when you consider the potential of the British and German markets. C3PDHO is savvy to these things. Net App did a good show at the Giro as a Wildcard so they have pedigree.

As for IAM, looking at their roster etc I’m sure they would be a very solid and worthy presence at the tour. But Nappy-Ra is the edgy, sexy, exciting choice. And if there’s three words I associate with Christian Preud’homme, it’s edgy, sexy and exciting. Matron.

Pro Tour Cyclist January 15, 2013 at 5:13 pm

IAM would not be worthy of a place neither prove solid at the tour…

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