ASO and RCS, cleverly using the 72 hours between the Golden Globes awards show Sunday and the dawn (in Hollywood) Academy awards nominations annoucement, are announcing their wild card picks for their races today. RCS had already announced that they would be, um, announcing their teams today for the Giro d'Italia, Milan-San Remo, and Tirreno-Adriatico while the ASO announcements for the Tour de France, Criterium du Dauphine, and Paris-Nice was expected later this month. But hey! All in one day sounds like a great idea! Let's see what we go as they happen!
ASO is first up with their surprise tweet:. In addition to the 17 World Tour teams we get:
- Paris-Nice: the three French teams: Cofidis, Europcar, and Bretagne - Seche Environement
- Criterium du Dauphine: the same
threetwo of the French teams ( Cofidis and Europcar) plus MTN - Qhubeka and Bora-Argon 18
- And for the biggest prize of the day, the five Tour de France spots: the three French teams already listed, MTN, and Bora - Argon 18 (the former NetApp-Endura)
What does this mean?
The French teams were of course no surprise at all, just like when RCS gets around to announcing their nominations will be heavily Italian. Still these teams bring some interesting riders to the game. Cofidis this year loses Taaramae but gains Bouhanni for the sprints. BSE brings Hooter and Hivert this year and hopes that Sepulveda is healthy. Europcar, financing stable now, has Voeckler, Rolland, Coquard, etc. All three teams make sense in all three races.
MTN-Qhubeka is also not a big surprise. They were probably odds on favorites for a Tour invite when they did their...interesting...acquisitions of Farrar, EBH, and Goss (as well as Cummings). Kinda obvious which stages they will be targeting.
The fifth and final Tour team was the big unknown here and four teams in particular were angling for a spot: United Healthcare is looking for a Grand Tour ride anywhere, Colombia ditto, Team Roompot, and Bora-Argon 18. Each had their selling points:
- UnitedHealthcare is American and so could in theory help out ratings there. Of course BMC and Trek-Garmin are also American and have higher profile Americans. UHC added Brajkovic, a mid-minor GC toy, as probably their best individual rider for the Tour, but they also added a couple of Italians this year so by my mind a Giro invite was always more likely. We'll see if RCS goes their way later.
- Roompot's biggest talking point was always the start of the Tour being in Utrecht but after that, the riders aren't all that compelling.
- Colombia is trading on everyone's love of Climbians, but after a couple of years most of us see that the good Climbians are on other teams.
- Bora-Argon 18 had a Tour invite this year but they lost Leo Konig to Sky and Tiago Machado to Katusha so their star power is less. Plus they aren't the only German team this year with Giant-Alpecin now flying the German flag.
But one of these teams had to win and Bora-Argon 18 it is. They still have Jan Barta and Sam Bennett will be yet another sprinter to take into consideration on the flat stages. Who their GC guy will be is not so clear.
Now we wait for RCS...who just announced that they are postponing until Monday their announcements. Well we always knew who the Big Dog was. Still, Bora wasn't in the running for the Giro. MTN could be a Giro invitee but they were clear that they wanted the Tour first. The other possible non-Italian teams for the Giro are UnitedHealthcare, Colombia, Caja Rural, CCC Sprandi Polkowice and Wanty-Gobert. I'm guessing wildly that the last spot is down to UHC and Colombia with CCC and Tin Tin being the dark horse (and likely invites to the other RCS races).