Giro d'Italia is expected to stick to Italian flavor when it names wildcard teams, but outsiders like UnitedHealthcare hope to be included
MILAN (VN) — Organizer RCS Sport will name its Giro d’Italia teams next week on the heels of the Tour de France’s wildcard announcements. It may already have decided on teams, however, with Androni Giocattoli, Bardiani-CSF, Colombia, Nippo-Vini Fantini, and Southeast expected to get the nod.
RCS Sport will welcome the 17 first-division teams — all have guaranteed spots to race in every WorldTour event — and five second-division teams on what is referred to as “wildcard” invitations.
In addition to the Giro d’Italia, May 9 to 31, RCS Sport will name the teams to race in March’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race and one-day classic, Milano-Sanremo.
The organizer has 20 second-division teams that it can choose from to fill the Giro d’Italia’s five open spots, but the pool is actually much shallower. Race director Mauro Vegni wants to have an Italian flavor in the 2015 edition, which will push off from Liguria’s shores and stay within the country’s border all but one day when it cuts through neighboring Switzerland.
The four Italian second-division teams all presented strong dossiers in late 2014 to Vegni for their inclusion.
Bardiani boasts a young team with several talented riders including Sonny Colbrelli and Enrico Battaglin. Battaglin, who starts his season in the Tour de San Luis next week, won the Oropa stage in 2014 and the Serra San Bruno stage in 2013.
Androni is one of the Giro’s mainstays thanks to manager Gianni Savio’s aggressive racing tactics and smart signings. For 2015, he brought onboard former stage winner and sprinter Oscar Gatto from Cannondale.
Southeast may be a controversial pick given two of its cyclists tested positive for EPO at the 2013 edition and Matteo Rabottini tested positive for the banned drug in a 2014 out-of-competition test. However, the team won the 2014 Coppa Italia classification, which puts it at the top of the wildcard list and signed Alessandro Petacchi, who has claimed 22 stage wins in the race.
Nippo stepped up to the second division only this year, but it has 2004 Giro champion Damiano Cunego and the brother of Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, Antonio, in its blue and orange colors.
Colombia may not carry an Italian license, but long-time manager Italian Claudio Corti runs the team and bases it in his backyard of Brescia. Each year, his men in black lead the way up the Giro’s high passes and edge closer to a stage win. Colombian Fabio Duarte placed second twice last year when the Giro climbed to Panarotta and to Montecapione.
Teams Bora-Argon 18 and MTN-Qhubeka told VeloNews that they did not ask Vegni for an invitation so that they could focus on racing the Tour in 2015.
Belgium’s Wanty-Groupe Gobert and America’s UnitedHealthcare are also asking for invites. Vegni may opt for one of them instead of Nippo, which could use a year to develop. Both teams have raced in the second division for four years already and both bolstered their 2015 rosters with Italians.
Wanty signed Enrico Gasparotto. The former Italian champion wore the leader’s pink jersey in 2007 and won the Amstel Gold Race in 2012. Besides the Italians, former Critérium du Dauphiné winner, Slovenian Janez Brajkovic could help UnitedHealthcare secure an invitation.
Not wanting to spoil the surprise, RCS Sport asked followers to wait until Monday to know the names of the teams taking part in the Giro d’Italia.