The three wild-card picks for the Tour de France were announced yesterday by A.S.O, the race owners, at their headquarters in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux. They opted to go for Astana (SUI), Agritubel (FRA) and Team Barloworld (GBR). While the first two selections were on the whole expected, British-registered Barloworld, with a South Afrcan-Itlian tint got the nod over Unibet, who controversially miss out on another Grand Tour spot.
Below are the collated press releases from the three wild-card recipients:
It’s now official! For the second year in a row, Agritubel will be at the big event in July in… London for the depart of the 94th Tour de France. A.S.O have therefore made a decision renewing our good results in a legitimate way (winners last year of a stage – at Pau – through Juan-Miguel Mercado but also winners of the Tour de l’Avenir thanks to Moises Duenas and well present in the Criterium International and the Fleche Wallone, quoting only the commendations of the organiser). In addition to the eighteen ProTour teams, Astana (Kloden, Savoldelli and Vinokourov) will also be invited, as well the Italian-English speakers Barloworld (Hunter, Guidi, Efimkin, Cardenas etc.)
The Agritubel squad, led by Mercado
Photo c. Agritubel
Despite its UCI Pro Tour license, Astana was not assured of its presence in the Tour de France. However, it has been announced today by ASO that Astana is one of the three invited teams.
Astana on the front. Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
“We thought we were certain to participate thanks to our UCI ProTour license” said Marc Biver, team manager. “We had to be patient till today, and this because of the disagreements between the UCI and the organisers of the Tour de France. Now we can focus on our ultimate goal. I also think that the composition of our team, with riders like Alexandre Vinokourov or Andreas Kloden, will have helped ASO’s decision to invite us.
The much hoped for news finally arrived today with an official announcement by the Tour de France organizers ASO: Team Barloworld has been invited to ride the 94th edition of the Tour de France that will start in London on July 7 and end in Paris on July 29.
The other teams invited by the organizers are: Agritubel, Ag2r Prèvoyance, Astana, Bouygues Tèlècom, Caisse d'Epargne, Cofidis le Crèdit Par Tèlèphone, Crèdit Agricole, Team CSC, Discovery Channel, Euskatel-Euskadi, Francaise des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, Lampre-Fondital, Liquigas, Team Milram, Predictor-Lotto, Quick Step-Innergetic , Rabobank, Saunier Duval - Prodir e T-Mobile Team.
"Obviously we're very happy with ASO's decision and very thankful that they've recognized the qualities of our team and our professionalism," commented Claudio Corti. "The project we've been working on for two years has everything in place to take to the highest level. From an organizational point of view, I believe we've already shown that we work to the highest standards. We've always kept our standards very high and focused on quality young riders that are showing their worth, and on more experienced riders who have already obtained impressive results."
"It's important to talk about our sponsor. Barloworld is a South African multi-national company that is present in numerous European and worldwide markets, and is a extraordinary resource for cycling in a difficult moment. I'm very proud to have brought an African sponsor into the highest level of cycling."
"I honestly think that Team Barloworld has deserved this great opportunity and I'm sure that we'll be able to honour our place in the Tour de France. We know we can't compete for the big objectives in the race but we're sure we can play a key role in the racing. The enthusiasm of our riders will be extra motivation so that we put ourselves in the spotlight in the most important race in the world.”
"Directuer sportifs Alberto Volpi and Valerio Tebaldi will direct Team Barloworld at the Tour de France and we've already drawn up a list of 12 riders for the nine-rider team and we will announce the names in the next few days."