Three French squads among Tour de France’s four wildcard teams

This year's Tour kicks off July 1 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

PARIS (AFP) — Four Pro Continental teams — French outfits Cofidis Solutions Crédits, Direct Energie, and Fortuneo – Vital Concept, and Belgian outfit Wanty – Groupe Gobert — received invitations to this summer’s Tour de France Thursday.

The race gets underway in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1 with 22 teams, including the 18 UCI WorldTour teams competing alongside the four second-division outfits.

“The choice follows logic,” race director Christian Prudhomme told AFP. “Everyone agreed on the need to beef up the second division. It would be good for cycling to have more competition.”

Cofidis will be led by French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni, while Direct Energie will count on French sprinter Bryan Coquard and veteran compatriot Thomas Voeckler.

Rising British cycling star Dan McLay, 25, will lead Fortuneo’s challenge. Wanty’s lineup includes several French riders, notably climber Guillaume Martin.

“It’s a team which has been submerged by bad luck, they know they have to seize this chance,” added Prudhomme of Wanty, which has been hit by injuries in recent years.

Last year, Cofidis, Direct Energie, and Fortuneo also received invitations, along with German outfit Bora. The latter is now a WorldTour team.