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Nairo Quintana out, Alberto Contador in: Giro d’Italia’s wildcard lottery throws curveballs

How does Quintana revive his GC career with no Giro? What's Contador doing back in the bunch? And shed a tear for the absence of Androni Giocattoli and its brazen billboard apparel.

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Giro d’Italia organizers RCS Sport spun its wildcard lottery wheel Wednesday, and while the outcome left some grand tour greats with dream tickets, others saw season plans smoked.

Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso were the winners and losers of the Giro wildcard selections, which handed ProTeams Bardani CSF Faizané, Eolo-Kometa and Vini Zabù-Brado-KTM the invite to race this May.

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Notably absent was Arkéa-Samsic, home of Colombian star Quintana, while eyebrows were set wagging by the inclusion of Contador and Basso-backed Eolo-Kometa, riding its first season in the sport’s second-tier. Oh, and one other loser? Giro d’Italia stalwarts Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec and its cut-and-paste partner-stacked jerseys.

Here’s what it all means:

Quintana’s grand tour revival hinges on the Tour de France

None of this for Nairo in 2021.

After seeing his 2020 Tour de France go up in smoke under the nagging pains of knee injuries, Quintana had been eyeing the Giro as his opportunity to return to grand tour glory. After winning in 2014 and placing second two years later, “Nairoman” saw the high peaks and gnarly weather of the Italian spring as a favorable springboard to jump back to his three-week best.

Arkéa-Samsic’s Giro snub will leave Quintana quietly cursing his luck.

Though Quintana and his French team is a safe bet for being handed a slot at this summer’s Tour, some 60 kilometers of time trialing puts the 31-year-old firmly in the B-list of favorites behind the big motors of Geraint Thomas and Primož Roglič.

Could Quintana pin his hopes on an invite to the Vuelta a España? With four Spanish teams scrapping for three available wildcard slots, he won’t be counting on it. The Tour could be Nairoman’s only option for a trip back to grand tour greatness this year. He’s likely out training on his TT bike right now.

Contador and Basso-led Eolo-Kometa lands dream ticket

Contador and Basso are back in the peloton with Eolo-Kometa.

Alberto Contador will be back at the Giro this year, only “El Pistolero” won’t be shooting for a return to his GC glories of 2008 and 2015. Alberto and his brother Fran will be behind the wheel of their Eolo-Kometa team in May, with fellow two-time Giro champ Ivan Basso playing sport director.

The team’s inclusion comes as both a surprise but also seemed an inevitability.

The squad only punched its ticket into the ProTeam ranks this season and has just one day of racing in its legs, at last month’s Clàssica Communitat Valenciana. Yet with new, big-budget Italian sponsor Eolo pulling the purse strings, Italian great Basso in the back-room, and the squad registering as Italian in 2021, Contador and Co. almost became a Giro shoo-in.

“For me to be in a Giro d’Italia in 2021 after having started this whole project in 2013 with a junior team is something I still find hard to believe,” general manager Fran Contador said Wednesday. “I experienced the Giro d’Italia as Alberto’s manager and it already seemed like a powerful and unforgettable experience … It’s a dream come true.”

Giro stalwarts Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec left fuming

Sorry, none of this at the Giro in 2021.

Unfortunately for Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, four into three doesn’t go. Team manager Gianni Savio and his brazen billboard apparel will be missing this year’s Giro having drawn the short straw as the one Italian ProTeam to miss the cut.

After placing riders into the breakaway at last fall’s Giro on a daily basis and having also won the lesser-known sprints and breakaway classifications in 2020, Androni’s omission left Savio seething. The veteran manager had even been one of the few backers of Giro director Mauro Vegni’s furious tirade after the peloton’s protest ahead of the race’s 19th stage.

It’s no surprise to see that Savio was less supportive of Vegni when speaking to OA Sport on Wednesday.

“It’s a real sporting infamy,” he said. “If I have to live in an unfair system that makes shameful choices, well, I don’t know if I want to continue. I will evaluate it. I’m not saying I’ll quit cycling, but I’m not saying I’ll continue either.”

Will Savio and the infamously ugly jerseys be back? Fingers crossed.