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Vuelta a Espana officials confirmed that four wildcard teams will start the 2011 edition of the Spanish tour, set to start Aug. 20 in Benidorm with a team time trial.
The Vuelta decided not to follow the lead taken this year by the Giro d’Italia, which included five wild-cards teams to account for a 23-team peloton for this year’s corsa rosa, and decided to stick with 22-team format.
Andalucía-Caja Granada, Geox-TMC, Cofidis and Skil-Shimano are the four teams set to join 18 teams already pre-selected for the season’s final grand tour.
The news is a boon for Geox-TMC, which missed out on a ProTeam license last fall and will not be racing in the Tour de France. The team had a less-than-stellar Giro, however, and will be hoping to bring Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre in top form for the Vuelta.
Cofidis and Skil-Shimano are somewhat of a surprise, especially when other Spanish-linked teams were overlooked. None of the North American Pro Continental teams made the cut, either.
The news is a blow to upstart Spanish team Caja Rural, which had signed veteran Inigo Cuesta with the hopes of earning a Vuelta bid. Cuesta holds a record of 17 Vuelta participations, but will not be back this year.
Race officials did leave the door open to change its wildcard decisions based on any unpleasantries that might come down the pipeline in the coming months.
“Unipublic reserves the right to modify this list if important circumstances are advising it to do so, always keeping the ethical responsibilities of the cyclist and his sport quality,” race officials said in a press release.
Race officials confirmed that Caja Rural would be the first reserve to start this year’s Vuelta if any other the teams would not be starting.
Teams for the 2011 Vuelta a Espana (Aug. 20-Sept. 11):
AG2R LA MONDIALE (FRA)
BMC RACING TEAM (USA)
KATUSHA TEAM (RUS)
LAMPRE – ISD (ITA)
LEOPARD TREK (LUX)
MOVISTAR TEAM (ESP)
OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO (BEL)
PRO TEAM ASTANA (KAZ)
QUICKSTEP CYCLING TEAM (BEL)
RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM (NED)
SAXO BANK SUNGARD (DEN)
SKY PROCYCLING (GBR)
TEAM GARMIN-CERVELO (USA)
TEAM RADIOSHACK (USA)
VACANSOLEIL-DCM PRO CYCLING TEAM (NED)
Four wild-card invitations:
ANDALUCIA CAJA GRANADA (ESP)
COFIDIS, LE CREDIT EN LIGNE (FRA)
SKIL – SHIMANO (NED)