Giro d'Italia

Zomegnan says Type 1 fits ‘DNA’ in heated wild-card battle for Giro

Team Type 1’s knows it has a tough battle to try to secure an invitation to the 2011 Giro d’Italia, but Giro race director Angelo Zomegnan told VeloNews the U.S.-based team fits the profile of the kind of team he’s looking for

Team Type 1 knows it has a tough battle to try to secure an invitation to the 2011 Giro d’Italia, but Giro race director Angelo Zomegnan told VeloNews the U.S.-based team fits the profile of the kind of team he’s looking for to round out the Giro’s 22-team peloton.

Zomegnan confirmed that Team Type 1 is on his radar screen to earn one of four invitations to the 94th Giro, which begins May 7 in Torino.

“At this moment I cannot tell you whether or not we will select Team Type 1, but the DNA of the new team is a good one,” Zomegnan told VeloNews. “The idea of the team is interesting to us, but first I have to understand if this team is in good position to be a protagonist in the Giro. We have to understand if they can be competitive in a grand tour.”

Team Type 1 made the jump to pro-continental status for the 2011 season and has an ambitious European racing calendar throughout the spring, which they hope culminates with an invitation to the Giro. The arrival of European veterans such as Rubens Bertogliati, Laszlo Bodrogi and Alexander Efimkin bolsters the team’s solid foundation.

The Giro wild-card sweepstakes is sure to be a heated battle this spring and Team Type 1 certainly isn’t the only North American team hoping to catch Zomegnan’s attention.

UnitedHealthcare is also raising its European profile after securing Pro-Continental status for 2011 and signed former Giro stage-winner Robert Forster, Giro veteran Charlie Wegelius and promising talent Boy Van Poppel. The team recently brought on experienced sport director Vittorio Algeri, a veteran of Team Polti, Saunier Duval and Milram, to run its European operations.

Canada-based SpiderTech-C10 also has a Pro Continental license for 2011 and will be making a major European push this season.

Zomegnan warned that the wild-card candidates will have to prove their worthiness on the road in the early part of the season.

The Giro race director said there are as many as 27 teams bucking for one of the few invitations to the season’s first grand tour and suggested that invitations won’t be issued until March after Milan-San Remo.

“We have around 26 to 27 teams who would like to ride the Giro, but we can only invite four teams,” Zomegnan continued. “I have an obligation to some Italian teams because we cannot ignore the fact that we are in Italy. We also want to open the door to new and real different teams, as we did a few years ago to Slipstream. We were the first big race to invite them to a major race.”

Zomegnan also confirmed that all 18 ProTeam teams will participate in this year’s Giro. Last year, Zomegnan said Euskaltel-Euskadi opted out of the Giro and RadioShack was not invited.

“Last year, Euskaltel said they didn’t have enough riders to participate in all three grand tours, but it was a different situation with RadioShack,” Zomegnan explained. “We didn’t invite RadioShack because they announced during the winter that they would focus on the Tour of California and the Tour de France. I said, OK, if you want to race those races, no problem, go ahead, but I cannot accept a team that is coming to the Giro to go on holidays. I know Italy is a wonderful place for holidays, but it’s always a question of respect for the race.”

RadioShack boss Johan Bruyneel, however, insisted that was not the case. In an e-mail to VeloNews, he said that the team opted out of the Giro. Bruyneel also confirmed that RadioShack, which was not invited to participate in the 2010 Vuelta, will race all three grand tours in 2011.

Zomegnan said that Euskaltel-Euskadi officials assured him during a trip Wednesday to Spain for the presentation of the 2011 Vuelta that the team will come to the Giro with a strong squad and suggested that fences have been mended with RadioShack.

“Euskaltel changed its position and they told me that (Igor) Antón is coming to the Giro to be a protagonist,” he said. “I have no problem with RadioShack, if they have no problem with me.”

Behind the 18 assured ProTeam slots, there is sure to be a heated battle to secure one of the four wild-card invitations.

As Zomegnan hinted, at least two Italian teams can expect an invitation, with likely tips going to Androni Giocattoli and Acqua & Sapone. Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli (former ISD) will also be in the hunt after missing out on the Giro last year while Colnago-CSF Inox, which raced last year as an invitee, will be keen to prove its worth.

Geox-TMC, which missed out on a ProTeam license, will be another heavy favorite to earn an invitation as well. The team is backed by a major Italian sponsor and promises to bring a competitive squad headlined by 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre and possibly 2009 Giro champ Denis Menchov.

The wild card candidates will get their shot to impress in early season races organized by RCS Sport such as Monte Paschi Strade Bianche (March 3), Tirreno-Adriatico (March 9-15) and Milan-San Remo (March 19), three events that Zomegnan said provide a good litmus test of how teams will perform during the Giro.

Invitations to those events will be released January 17.