Race director Christian Prudhomme defended his decision to leave Geox-TMC on the sidelines for the 2011 Tour de France.
Geox-TMC was the big losers in the Tour sweepstakes as four French teams were invited to start the 98th Tour on July 2. Prudhomme said the Tour was motivated in large part to support French cycling.
“This is a consequence of our decision to helping French cycling,” Prudhomme told AFP. “We now have reason to trust the French racers, and now it’s their time to seize the opportunity. It sporting terms, we have the best 18 teams in the world and with the (invitees) we have emblematic riders; Voeckler at Europcar, Moncoutié at Cofidis, and Fédrigo and Casar at FDJeux. And Saur-Sojasun has (Jerome) Coppel, probably one of the best hopes in French cycling.”
Geox-TMC’s fate was likely sealed last fall when it did not receive one of 18 ProTeam licenses that would have guaranteed its presence in all of the season’s major events, now part of the world racing calendar.
Another blow against its Tour chances was that there was only one French team – Ag2r-La Mondiale – among the 18 ProTeam selection, meaning that the pressure was on ASO to include several French teams among the invitations to guarantee a strong national flavor to the French race.
Cofidis, FDJeux and Europcar (former BBox) also missed out on ProTeam licenses, meaning that the competition would be keen for a Tour invited.
Geox-TMC officials were not available for comment Thursday. They did not return phone calls from VeloNews since the Spanish sport daily AS reported earlier this week that Geox-TMC would not be invited.
Tour officials also broke with tradition by revealing the Tour invitations very early in the racing season. Typically, the invitations would be not awarded until well into the calendar, in part to give teams a chance to prove their worth and perhaps to milk some good publicity out of the growing tension.
Prudhomme also said he hopes the ongoing doping case involving Alberto Contador is resolved before the start of the Tour de France.
“What we want, what we have said since October, is that there is a definitive ruling as quickly as possible. Not a decision, but THE decision. Then we will know where to turn,” he said, adding a comment on new allegations against Lance Armstrong. “The case is ongoing. The authorities continue with their work. We will not comment at this time.”