The Holland start of the Tour de France this summer didn’t help two smaller Dutch teams earn a bid to the season’s most important race.
Vacansoleil and Skil-Shimano will be left on the sidelines come July as they were not included in six “wild card” teams revealed Tuesday to round-out the 22-team field for the 97th Tour, officials announced on Tuesday.
The pull of cycling’s biggest stars meant that the smaller-budget Dutch team will not be at the July 3 start in Rotterdam. Also missing out is French squad Saur-Sojasun managed by former yellow jersey Stéphane Heulot.
Teams invited include RadioShack, Cervélo TestTeam, BMC, Garmin-Transitions, Team Sky and Katusha.
The decision will be a disappointment for Vacansoleil, which signed French brothers Romain and Brice Feillu to help attract attention from Tour officials. Romain wore the yellow jersey in 2008 while Brice won the Andorra-Arcalis climbing stage in the Pyrénées last year. Skil-Shimano earned an invitation last year, but did little to impress officials after the first week of racing.
Under an agreement with the UCI dating back to 2008, all 18 ProTour teams were automatically awarded a spot for the 2010 Tour. With two teams – Gerolsteiner and Crédit Agricole – no longer existing, only 16 teams were pre-qualified based on the 2008 criteria.
Tour officials said a new selection process will be introduced in 2011: the top 17 ranked teams based on world rankings at the end of the 2010 season will be automatically qualified, leaving the final spots up to the discretion of race organizers.
Tuesday’s announcement is good news for North American racing fans, meaning that all five teams with strong Canadian and American ties will be in this year’s Tour.
Asked whether the number of U.S. and British teams on the list this year indicated that increased efforts were being made to attract interest from English-speaking countries, Tour director Christian Prudhomme replied that “the Tour will always stay the Tour de France.”
“It’s the greatest cycle race in the world and there will be no turning our backs on the past,” Prudhomme said. “The race is becoming more international and that is only logical. In football, the best French players more often than not play for the top foreign clubs.”
Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said that getting named to the Tour “has been a dream for so many of us for so long – now it’s a reality.
“We will do everything we can to help create an exciting race with a group of highly talented and motivated riders who race to win,” Brailsford said. “We are a rider-centerd team and the riders must take the credit for getting us selected for this year’s Tour de France through their fantastic early season performances.
“They are a fantastic bunch of guys and I know they will arrive in Rotterdam ready to give it their very best.”
Formed at the end of 2009, Sky successfully recruited last year’s fourth-place finisher Bradley Wiggins from Garmin. Wiggins said he is especially pleased to be riding for a team based in his home country.
“As a team we are thrilled that we’re going to compete in the biggest bike race in the world,” Wiggins said. “I’m hugely proud to be in a British-based team taking on the Tour de France and I’m convinced we’ll leave our mark.”
The 16 teams selected in accordance with the 2008 agreement with the UCI:
Omega Pharma – Lotto
Team Saxo Bank
AG2R La Mondiale
BBox Bouygues Telecom
Française des Jeux
Six teams invited by ASO:
BMC Racing Team