Armstrong and his RadioShack team, shown here at the start of this year's Tour of California, did not receive an invite to the Vuelta a España. Photo copyright Marvin Johnson.
The Vuelta a España released the list of 22 teams who will contest the Spanish grand tour come September. And look who's missing from the list. The Vuelta organizers gave the big middle finger to the Team The Shack. Before anyone starts to think this move was some kind of anti-American conspiracy, Garmin-Transitions and HTC-Columbia, who last I checked are American teams, will ride the race. RadioShack, no Vuelta for you.
RadioShack even asked for an invitation, and submitted a list of fifteen possible riders. The Shack skipped the Giro d'Italia to focus on the Tour of California and the Tour de France. Maybe it was the repeated references to the Tour of California as the most important race outside the Tour de France. Or, maybe the Vuelta organizers just took the focus on the Tour de France very very seriously. The recent Landis fandango may also have spooked the Vuelta, though the French investigation into the trashbins of Caisse d'Epargne haven't raised a ripple. Caisse will ride the Vuelta, despite the suspension of Alejandro Valverde and the French interest in the team's rubbish.
The Vuelta organizers have claimed concerned over whether the team would be competitive. They did not include Lance Armstrong among 15 rider pre-selection. Alain Gallopin told the Rueters wire service that of course the team had not proposed Armstrong among their team's preselection. It's not possible for a 38 year old to ride two grand tours, he explained. Still, the proposed line-up was "very competitive," asserted Gallopin. The pre-selection included names like Andreas Klöden, Levi Leipheimer, Haimar Zubeldia, and Janez Brajkovic, the winner of this year's Critérium du Dauphiné. Many teams would kill for a line-up stage race line-up like that one.
Over on the Twit, that bastion of well-reasoned reactions, Johann Bruyneel called the decision a "snub" and promised "interesting and spicy" comments. Oooh, Bruny, I love it when you get spicy! The suspense is so killing me right now. Bruyneel's spicy comments have yet to appear, as of this writing. Do post them in the comments when you see them. I'd hate to see a good temper tantrum go to waste.
Who are the invited teams? Garmin-Transitions, Team Sky, Cervélo TestTeam, and Katusha all scored invites. Though they have World Champion Cadel Evans, Team BMC did not apply to ride the Vuelta. The team viewed a third grand tour a bridge too far for their young roster. Locals Xacobeo-Galicia and Andalucia Caja-sur live for the Vuelta a España and both have local governments among their title sponsors. No brainer. Of course, they will ride the race. Xacobeo-Galicia will hope yet again for good things from Ezequiel Mosquera, who can't be getting any younger. The remaining teams are the 16 pro tour teams who are part of the automatic list created by the UCI-race organizer agreement of September 2008. That agreement expires at the end of this season.
Spare a thought for Vacansoleil, who can't catch any love from the grand tour organizers. No grand tours for you, better luck next year. Skil-Shimano, ISD-Neri, Androni whatsitcalled, Acqua&Sapone, and Saur-Sojasun will also watch the Vuelta on television this year. No tantrums have emanated from the team management of any of these rejected teams.
The Vuelta a España could change their mind and alter the invite list to the September grand tour. A good doping scandal, really, is there such thing as a good doping scandal? It's Monday, I can't be held responsible. A doping scandal could remove a team from the favorites list. Also, sporting grounds could lead to exclusion, though it's really hard to tell if a team is going to suck until they show up to race. For all intents and purposes, The Shack will be sitting on their couches during the Vuelta a España. Maybe the Tour of California needs to move to September next year.