CCC Sprandi, Androni Giocattoli, Bardiani-CSF, Nippo-Vini Fantini, and Southeast get the nod to race in the season's first grand tour

MILAN (VN) — The Giro d’Italia decided on four home teams and a Polish one when handing out its wildcard invitations Monday. CCC Sprandi will join Italian second-division teams Androni Giocattoli, Bardiani-CSF, Nippo-Vini Fantini, and Southeast, along with the 17 UCI WorldTour teams with automatic invitations.

“We reflected deeply on the wildcard choices; an increasingly meticulous process thanks to the quality of the teams that want to participate in our races,” explained Mauro Vegni, the RCS Sport Head of Cycling.

“This year’s choices, especially for the wildcards of the Giro d’Italia, were dictated by the opportunity to support the Italian cycling movement, giving continuity to an overall process without ever losing sight of the goal of international development in strategic territories.”

RCS Sport’s list excluded Colombia, which was expected to get the nod. The team of Colombians, based in Italy, lit up the race in the high mountains over the past two years. The 2015 race is scheduled for May 9-31.

The list also excluded American team UnitedHealthcare, Belgium’s Wanty-Groupe Gobert, and Spain’s Caja Rural-Seguros RGA. South Africa’s MTN-Qhubeka and Germany’s Bora-Argon 18 did not ask for a spot to race, focusing instead on one of the five spots in the Tour de France. Both teams will race the 2015 Tour.

CCC Sprandi became Poland’s first team to race the Giro d’Italia in 2003. Its 2015 roster includes two Italians, 43-year-old Davide Rebellin and 25-year-old Cristian Delle Stelle. Rebellin placed second at the 2008 Olympics and won all three Ardennes Classics in 2004, but was caught doping with EPO and served a ban.

German Stefan Schumacher joined CCC Sprandi for the 2015 season. In 2008, he won two stages of the Tour de France before failing an EPO anti-doping test.

Both Rebellin and Schumacher, however, won stages in the Giro and held its pink leader’s jersey.

CCC Sprandi’s roster also includes several strong Polish cyclists like Sylvester Szmyd, who worked for grand tour stars, placed 19th in the 2006 Giro d’Italia, and won a stage in the 2009 Critérium du Dauphiné.

“We are very happy about this invite, but we are aware that it’s also a big responsibility and a challenge,” CCC Sprandi sport director Piotr Wadecki said.

“All of our riders have to be in the top shape and we have to concentrate on the right preparation. As a team, with this management and roster, we’ve never taken part in the three-week race, so we have a hard task ahead of us.”

RCS Sport also handed out invitations to its other WorldTour races Tirreno-Adriatico (March 11-17), Milano-Sanremo (March 22), and Il Lombardia (October 4). In addition to the Giro, it named CCC Sprandi for both Milano-Sanremo and Il Lombardia.

The 17 first-division teams receive automatic invitations to each of the 27 WorldTour events on the UCI’s calendar.

UnitedHealthcare was overlooked for the Giro d’Italia but received an invitation to race in Il Lombardia. Its roster includes five Italians with 2014 stage winner Marco Canola and 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné overall winner Janez Brajkovic.

Nippo will race the Giro d’Italia for the first time. This winter, it signed 2004 Giro winner Damiano Cunego and jumped from the third to second division.

Androni, Bardiani, and Southeast raced in and won stages in past editions of the Giro. Enrico Battaglin, Marco Canola, and Stefano Pirazzi carried the Bardiani’s green colors to stage wins in 2014.

Southeast has had a bumpy ride. In 2013, Danilo Di Luca tested positive for EPO before the Giro, while teammate Mauro Santambrogio failed an EPO test during the race. Last year, Matteo Rabottini failed an out-of-competition test for the same drug.

RCS Sport, Italy’s top race organizer, wants to support its home teams in a time of crisis. Cannondale left behind its first-division team to merge with U.S.-registered Garmin for 2015. With only Lampre-Merida, Italy has never had so few teams in the first division.

Giro d’Italia wildcards

Androni Giocattoli (ITA)
Bardiani-CSF (ITA)
CCC Sprandi Polkowice (POL)
Nippo-Vini Fantini (ITA)
Southeast Pro Cycling Team (ITA)

Tirreno-Adriatico wildcards

Bardiani-CSF (ITA)
Bora-Argon 18 (GER)
Colombia (COL)
MTN-Qhubeka (RSA)
Europcar (FRA)

Milano-Sanremo wildcards

Androni Giocattoli (ITA)
Bardiani-CSF (ITA)
Bora-Argon 18 (GER)
CCC Sprandi Polkowice (POL)
Cofidis (FRA)
Colombia (COL)
MTN-Qhubeka (RSA)
Novo Nordisk (USA)

Il Lombardia wildcards

Androni Giocattoli (ITA)
Bardiani-CSF (ITA)
Bora-Argon 18 (GER)
CCC Sprandi Polkowice (POL)
Colombia (COL)
Nippo-Vini Fantini (ITA)
Southeast Pro Cycling (ITA)
UnitedHealthcare (USA)