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Ronde van Vlaanderen Wildcards Offer No Surprises

Luc Claessen, AFP

Today the seven wild card teams invited for the Tour of Flanders were officially named, and as usual there was little in the way of shock. The headliners are the large Pro-Conti Belgian outfits Topsport Vlaanderen and Wanty Groupe Goubert. Dropped were Cofidis and Androni, with the Italian Southeast team taking one place and CCC Polkowice another.

The good news:

Flanders Classics, the organizing entity of much of the Cobbled Classics, had seven wild cards to hand out today, down from last year's eight as 2015 participant MTN Qhubeka have gone World Tour (and changed names to Dimension Data). The two Belgian squads were dead certain to be invited, being the only two teams from the host nation on the Pro-Conti rank. Androni had a couple doping positives, so the token Italian invite fell by default, or the grace of Filippo Pozzato, to Southeast. Bora Argon, Roompot and Direct Energie (formerly Europcar, now home to Sylvain Chavanel) got called back for a return after last year's participation. All three offer a mix of veteran talent from neighboring countries, and can be expected to show they belong. CCC are the best Pro-Conti team in Eastern Europe, and have renounced their Giro d'Italia focus of last season in favor of ASO races and big one-day events.

Apart from the return engagements of Chava and Pozzato, who are no longer likely to feature, the wild card selections assure (if healthy) the presence of some true contenders like Edward Theuns and 2015 Dwars winner Jelle Wallays [Ed.: Uh, that was their 2015 roster; their 2016 team probably has the next big Belgian star on them somewhere but I am not prepared to name him], as well as the "Oh yeah that guy" presence of Bjorn Leukemans Enrico Gasparotto and Marco Marcato.