When it rains it pours. Both ASO and RCS announced a barrage of wildcards for some of the early spring and summer races today. Short summary: If you're a Russian team deemed ethically dodgy, you're screwed as far as the ASO are concerned.
The ASO announced wildcards for both Paris Nice and the Criterium de Dauphíne and conspicuosly absent from both races is the Katusha team. Instead the honors go to :
Paris - Nice : Cofidis , Sojasun , Team Europcar & IAM Cycling
Criterium de Dauphíne : Team Europcar , Bretagne-Séché Environnement , NetApp-Endura & Cofidis
So three French teams plus one token international team for both races. The P-N invite probably fits IAM like a glove. They will be focused on their home tour of Switzerland come summer anyway . NetApp will be well pleased to go tothe Dauphiné having lost out on the Giro invite and with some alp stages they can hopefully be a factor with the likes of Leopold König . Katusha's reaction to this must presumably be some light panic. True they are invited to Tirreno so they won't be left idle in March but if this is an indication of the ASO's thoughts for the TdF then it means major trouble and there will no doubt have been some hectic phonecalls at the offices of Joaqium Rodriguez's business manager when the announcement was made. Having openly targeted the Tour this is a major warning-signal and one that could have him running for the exit. Of course there is also the possibility that that the ASO are appeasing some of the minor French teams (Bretagne/ Sojasun) with these invites because they will get disappointed when the big Tour-invites are handed out. The exclusion of the loaded Katusha team has no doubt made the wildcard selectors lives a little trickier.
Meanwhile in Italy RCS Sport have invited teams to the weekend of racing that includes the Strade Bianche and the resurrected Giro Del Lazio, a classic race that has been put on backburner since 2008. Both these races feature smaller fields and fewer World Tour teams, in the case of Strade Bianche a conscious choice based on the logistics of racing on the gravel roads of Tuscany. The invites went to:
- Ag2r , Astana , Blanco Pro Cycling , BMC , Cannondale , Garmin , Lampre , Movistar , Radioshack , Argos-Shimano , Vacansoleil , Androni Giacattoli , Bardiani-CSF , Katusha , IAM Cycling , Crelan-Euphony & Vini Fantini
Giro Del Lazio:
Ag2r , Astana , BMC , Cannondale , Lampre , Movistar , Argos , Vacansoleil , Androni , Bardiani , Colombia , Caja Rural , Crelan , IAM , Katusha & Vini Fantini
Clearly the RCS have been kinder to Katusha this time, having already snubbed them for the big one in May.
Details on the Giro Del Lazio are to be presented soon but it's return is a welcome sign that all things are not gloom in Italian cycling despite the cancellation of some other races this spring. It does highlight however the concentration of control of the racing scene with the Giro organizers RCS.