The Tour de France announced two of its wildcard invitations for 2019 on Thursday. Wanty Groupe-Gobert and Cofidis will join the 18 teams of the WorldTour, July 6-28 at the Tour.
The pair finished 2018 as the two highest ranked teams on the UCI EuropeTour, which earned them their Tour wildcard bids for 2019. That approach is in line with the wildcard invite process the UCI is implementing for 2020, which will grant top-ranked teams automatic bids to the sport’s biggest races.
Two wildcard invites remain open. Race organizer ASO plans to announce those invites “at a later time.” French Pro Continental outfits Arkea-Samsic, Direct Energie, and Vital Concept-B&B Hotels seem the most likely candidates. All three added firepower to their rosters over the offseason. Arkea-Samsic is now home to sprinter André Greipel, an 11-time stage winner at the Tour. Direct Energie brought on Tour of Flanders champion Niki Terpstra for 2019, and French GC hopeful Pierre Rolland rides for Vital Concept.
The three French teams will hope to prove themselves worthy of invites in the next few months. The trio has been invited to Paris-Nice, the ASO’s first WorldTour stage race of the year which takes place in March.
The ASO would not commit to a specific date for the announcement of the final two wildcard invites. Race director Christian Prudhomme said that the organizers are aware of the challenges that come with last-minute invites, but that the ASO is still taking its time evaluating the remaining potential invites.
“It’s very important to allow the teams to organize their season,” Prudhomme told Agence France-Presse. “But this year, we have a unique situation, with very strong competition for the invitations.”