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Just call it the French fête.
Three French teams will round out the 2020 Tour de France peloton, officials confirmed Tuesday.
Arkéa-Samsic, Total-Direct Energie, and B&B Hotels-Vital Concept will complete the Tour start list as ASO doled out its wildcard invitations Tuesday. Total-Direct Energie already had secured a spot after winning the Professional Continental (now called ProSeries) team ranking in 2019, meaning that Tuesday’s announcement was little more than a formality.
Arkéa-Samsic, which packs stars Nairo Quintana, Nacer Bouhanni and Warren Barguil, was also expected to earn a berth. The biggest surprise is the inclusion of B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, which earns its first Tour bid since its formation in 2018. Losing out was Belgian outfit Circus-Wanty Gobert, which had raced the past three editions of the French grand tour.
“This is the biggest news of the year for us,” said French sprinter Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), who started the 2014-16 editions. “I’ve missed the past three Tours, so it’s only after you’re left without it do you realize how important it is.”
That means six French squads will make up the 22-team field for the June 27 start in Nice for the 2020 Tour, with Cofidis, Ag2r-La Mondiale and Groupama-FDJ lining up as part of 19 slot allotted to WorldTour teams.
“The last spot is always the most complicated to select,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme told AFP. “Wanty did not deserve to lose its spot in the Tour, but this time, we’ll give B&B a shot after its leaders struggled a bit last year. They have the means to do well this year in a mountainous Tour route, and Bryan Coquard will have his chances.”
The Tour starts a week early this summer to avoid bumping up against the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, with Nice hosting the start on June 27, and Paris welcoming the peloton on July 19. Top finishing Tour riders will have less than a week to travel and prepare for the Olympic road race, one of the first medal events to open the Tokyo Games on July 26.
Anticipation among French fans will be higher than ever for the Tour following heroic turns from Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot in 2019. Despite French hopes, it appears Alaphilippe will put a larger focus on preparing for the Olympic Games and Romain Bardet, a two-time Tour podium finisher, is skipping the Tour this year. Only Pinot, who left the Tour with injury in the Alps, is betting everything on the Tour on what’s viewed as a favorable course.