With the remaining four wild cards for the Giro to be announced on Feb 12, we gives appraisals of the chances of the seven squads gunning for one of the places on the startline in Sardinia.
Courtesy Gazzetta dello Sport
On February 12, race organiser Angelo Zomegnan will announce the remaining four wild card places for the 90th Giro d’Italia, ending weeks of speculation. There are seven teams in the running for the remaining four places, and we’ve seen in previous years that the best teams don’t always get the spots – money, and nationality, talks. Will either of the remaining "official" ProTour teams be eschewed in favour of home squads? The Daily Peloton gives its opinion on the chances of all the teams still gunning for a place in this year's corsa rosa.
Paolo Savoldelli looking pretty in pink at the 2005 Giro - C. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Chances - 7/10
It is difficult to see how Astana can be ignored for one of the four reminaing wild-cards, considering the all-round quality that the team possesses. Only their connections to Manolo Saiz and Operacion Puerto could perhaos prevent them receiving a place. With two-time champion Paolo Savoldelli, alongside veteran performer Eddy Mazzoleni both likely to ride (as well as stars like Vinokourov, Kloden and Kashechkin likely to opt out of the Giro), their place at the event seems assured. Angelo Zomegnan could find fault in their lack of Italians (two – and I just mentioned them above), but really there should be enough class to see the Kazakh-registered team through.
Tinkoff Credit Systems
Chances - 6/10
Ever the good businessman, Oleg Tinkov made sure that Angelo Zomegnan was at his team presentation in Rome and put on quite a show for the Giro head honcho. The team is registered in Italy; they are riding Colnagos, and have signed several home riders. Will glitz, glamour, PR and caviar be enough to persuade him? Certainly, Zomegnan has said publicly that they have impressed him – is that a premature “yes” from him? Tinkoff do not have a weak team – they’ve certainly hit the ground running in Langkawi and in the French season openers - with riders such as Hamilton, Hondo, Commesso and Marzoli on board. But read those names again – all four have been banned for various doping-related reasons in their careers. Behind this thin veneer of star quality lies many talented youngsters but few other quality performers. Selecting Tinkoff Credit Systems might also incur the wrath of the UCI and the authorities fighting against drug use in the sport. Of course, with the UCI and Grand Tour organisers not exactly hand-in-hand at the moment, it seems likely to me that they will get the ticket. Perché non?
Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni
Chances - 5.5/10
Aguardiente Nectar, Selle Italia, Serramenti Diquigiovanni: call them what you will, but this team, in its various reincarnations, have attended the last seven Giri d’Italia, and have illuminated them all their with tireless attacking spirit and moves, both on the level and in the mountains. However, they have lost the likes of Rujano (in June), Furlan and serial attacker Illiano over the winter, and have done little to replace them. There remains a strong Italian backbone, matching veteran Italian riders like Wladimir Belli and Gabriele Missaglia, and talented younger riders like Santo Anza and Alberto Loddo. Venezuelan Jose Serpa could also carry their hopes in the mountains. Despite an average Giro last year, their recent history of wild-card selections here, Italian riders and connections (including Selle Italia) and red-hot early-season performances (Loddo winning stage after stage in Malaysia) should ensure they get a spot.
Felipe Laverde wins Stage 15 of the 2006 Giro, Photo (c) Tim DeWaele.
Chances - 5.5/10
Another team that has been afforded many wild cards to the Giro, Panaria’s lineup has changed little from last year’s. The team is packed with ability, on any topograhy. For the mountains, they boast several promising riders, including 2006 stage winner Luis Laverde Jimenez, Emmanuele Sella, Julio Alberto Perez and Domenico Pozzovivo. Pint-sized Sella probably still serves as their best bet for the overall. However, in Paride Grillo (surely it is only a matter of time before this rider is snapped up by a ProTour squad?), Guillermo Bongiorno or Maximiliano Richeze, they will also be very competitive in the sprints. Factoring in classy Luca Mazzanti on board, they have comfortably more all-round quality than Acqua & Sapone (their likely rivals for one of the last two wild card spots), and with an Italian UCI registration and a host of riders who have proven themselves at the Giro before, it would be hard on Panaria not to be recipients of a wild card.
Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo
Chances - 5/10
The days of hideous zebra stripes and end upon end of Cipollini sprint victories are over for this team. It is no mere coincidence that they haven’t ridden the Giro since 2004, the last year before the ProTour was introduced, when Fred Rodriguez took a stage for them. Though they have boosted their chances of a wild card place with the signing of former winner Stefano Garzelli, there is quality few and far between, even if the acquisition of Frank Vandenbroucke ensures a few more mentions in the press. They did win the Europe Tour team classification, but riders like Nocentini and Tonti, who were crucial to that success, have jumped ship to ProTour outfits. Even with the two ageing big-name riders on board, they will be fortunate to get a place in the Giro this year. It could all depend on whether Astana get the invite.
Chances - 4/10
Officially part of the ProTour, Unibet could be the only team from cycling's top league to miss out on the Giro. Though the squad may be big, it lacks particular quality, even if 2005 Giro revelation Jose Rujano, Baden Cooke and Victor Hugo Pena (ninth overall last year) all ride for them. Moreover, their lack of Italian riders will do them no favours, though sprinter Marco Zanotti is a very underrated, proven Giro performer, with a string of top-three stage finishes to his name. With an otherwise nondescript lineup, what odds would you get on Unibet being shunned in favour of home teams?
Chances - 3/10
From humble beginnings on the South African domestic scene in 2002, Barloworld have expanded to the point that they can offer their most serious challenge for a Grand Tour wild card this season. Yet, the team still lacks depth, a real big name racer and a competent GC challenger (surely Felix Cardenas can’t keep carrying their hopes in the mountains). The signings of Robert Hunter and Giro stage winner Fabrizio Guidi augur well for the season, but it looks like they will, once again, miss out on a Giro place. However, there’s always next year for a team which looks to be steadily building itself into a force to be reckoned with.