Tour de France organiser ASO on Thursday named the 20 teams it has selected for this year’s race.
The line-up includes the American team Slipstream-Chipotle.
Team director Jonathan Vaughters said the invitation was a relief.
“I found out about 5 minutes ago,” Vaughters told VeloNews Thursday morning.
“I feel relieved after all the work we put in. We proved we are one of the better teams in the world right from the start all the way through Tirreno, but we had a mediocre Paris-Nice, of all the friggin’ races to have go sideways on us!! So of course that worried me a bit. But anyway, the bigger picture has been A+ work for a new team, so I’m glad ASO agreed with that. Off we go.”
“We present a good image. We’re a good-looking, well-organized team. We race aggressively. We don’t always win everything, but we’re always in the hunt,” he said.
When asked if the invitation was a mandate on the team’s high-profile ethics of clean racing, Vaughters cautioned that Slipstream isn’t the only clean team in the peloton.
“I honestly believe there are a lot of teams who have followed suit and I believe the majority of teams are doing that,” he said. “There are lots of clean teams out there, we just happen to generate more media buzz because we just happen to be on the front end of that because we started a year ago with a lot of young riders.”
Vaughters said he’s working through a long list of riders for the Tour, but said such veterans as David Millar, Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie are sure to start.
The Tour line-up comprises all teams holding a ProTour licence, with the exception of the Kazakh-backed, Swiss-based Astana team, ASO said.
ASO ruled in February that reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and his Astana team would be barred from competing in this year’s race as a result of doping scandals over the past two years.
Slipstream is one of three Continental Professional teams invited. The others are Agritubel (FRA) and Great Britain’s Barloworld.
The Tour starts in the Britanny port city of Brest on July 5.
Each team will comprise nine riders for a total peloton of 180. “These are, I believe, the best teams in the world,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme told AFP, insisting that there would be no going back on the decision taken on Astana.
ASO made only one change from the recent Paris-Nice line-up, calling up Barloworld in the place of Dutch outfit Skil-Shimano.
Prudhomme described Skil, whose French climber Clement Lhotellerie was a revelation at Paris-Nice, as a “team for the future” but lacking in the maturity needed to tackle the Tour.
The Tour director also defended the choice of the three Continental Pro teams: “Barloworld were there last year and won two stages and the king of the mountains jersey.
“As for Agritubel, there is a slight national preference and Christophe Moreau, French champion, has joined the team. Slipstream is an American team whose philosophy (of anti-doping) suits us.”
Team Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens said the team was not surprised by the snub.
“ASO is consistent. They said already in February that Astana Cycling Team is not welcome in their events,” he said.
The “strange fact is that about eight of the twenty selected teams for the Tour have riders or management people with a “doping past.” It gives the impression that our non-selection is based on nothing. It’s a pity for the credibility of Tour the France. It is sad for all cycling fans. We will have in July the biggest race in the world without the best riders.”
“We have no intention to fight to get in the race,” he said.
— VeloNews’ Ben Delaney and Andrew Hood contributed to this report, along with Agence France Presse —
France: AG2R, Agritubel (Continental Pro), Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Credit Agricole, Francaise des Jeux
Spain: Caisse d’Epargne, Euskaltel, Saunier Duval
Germany: Gerolsteiner, Milram
Belgium: Quick Step, Silence
United States: High Road, Slipstream (Continental Pro)
Italy: Lampre, Liquigas
Great Britain: Barloworld (Continental Pro)
The Netherlands: Rabobank