Vuelta a España officials said they will release their wild-card invitations to the 2011 edition in May and suggested it may follow the lead taken by the Giro d’Italia, which recently invited five extra teams to the corsa rosa.
Race official Javier Guillén conceded that competition will be tight to secure a spot at the start line for the season’s final grand tour, which begins August 20 in Benidorm.
“We have to decide if we’ll do it with 22 teams, which I believe we will, or with one more like the Giro. What the Giro and Tour do is not an example to be followed. Every race has its interests. We have four invitations, with a lot of requests, so the decision will not be an easy one,” Guillén told the Diario de Navarra. “(The first criteria) is ethics, and not to have problems with doping. Then there’s questions of administration, budget and, of course, sport.”
All 18 ProTeams will be back, including RadioShack, which was not invited last year despite holding a license.
Competition will be keen among teams angling for a Vuelta bid. Geox-TMC, with two-time winner Denis Menchov and 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre, will be first in line. After being snubbed for the Tour de France, Geox-TMC secured its Giro invitation this week. Menchov is already planning on making a run at the Giro and Vuelta this season.
Behind them are Spanish Pro Continental teams Andalucía-Caja Granada and Caja Rural, which recently signed Vuelta-record holder Iñigo Cuesta to bolster its Vuelta hopes.
Others on the short list would likely include Colombia es Pasión, Skil-Shimano and Androni-Giocattoli, which has a heavy Latin American presence along with Spanish veteran Angel Vicioso. French teams Cofidis, FDJ and Saur Sojasun could be in the running as well as perhaps one of the North American Pro Continental teams such as SpiderTech-C10, Team Type 1 or UnitedHealthcare looking to earn a debut grand tour start.
Guillén also confirmed that plans to move a shortened Vuelta back to April have been permanently shelved.
“I was in favor of moving it back to April, but it didn’t happen,” Guillén said. “We’ve been moved up a week (on the calendar), so that’s good enough. The Tour, Giro and Vuelta are three weeks long and they will stay that way.”