Lost amid Wednesday’s headlines was the official release of the invited teams for the upcoming 66th edition of Paris-Nice.
The “Race to the Sun” will have a strong American presence with both High Road and Slipstream-Chipotle earning bids.
Twenty teams with eight riders each will take the start March 9 with a 4.3km opening prologue in Amilly. The race concludes per recent tradition on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on March 16. Route details have not been released.
As previously announced, Astaná would not be allowed to take part, meaning Alberto Contador will not be able to defend his Paris-Nice title from 2007.
In somewhat of a surprising move, ASO honored the position of the remaining 17 ProTour teams and invited them all to participate in the season’s first major stage race.
Three wild card bids were awarded, including Slipstream-Chipotle, Skil-Shimano and Agritubel.
The invitation will surely come as a relief for High Road following the team’s surprising exclusion from the Giro d’Italia.
Slipstream director Jonathan Vaughters said the Paris-Nice invitation is a good sign that the team may receive an invitation to this year’s Tour de France as well.
“We’re very happy to be on the invitation list for Paris-Nice… obviously!,” Vaughters told VeloNews. “It is one more indication that we’re on the right road to getting the invitation to the Tour de France itself. I think performing well in Paris-Nice and honoring that invitation will be the key to convincing ASO we are ready, as a new team, for Le Tour.“
Vaughters said he is still unsure of which Slipstream riders will be sent to Paris-Nice.
“I’m anxious to see what the 2008 route for Paris-Nice has in store and then finalizing our roster based on the course,” he said.
20 teams for Paris-Nice
France: Ag2r-La Mondiale, Agritubel*, Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, Française des Jeux
Germany: Gerolsteiner, Milram
USA: High Road, Slipstream-Chipotle*
Spain: Caisse d’Epargne, Euskaltel, Saunier Duval
Belgium: Quick Step, Silence-Lotto
Italy: Lampre, Liquigas
Netherlands: Rabobank, Skil-Shimano*
* = continental team