While the 2011 season has only just begun in Australia, Tour de France organiser ASO is ready close to deciding which teams will be given invitations to this year's Tour de France in July.
While the 18 existing UCI ProTeams have obtained automatic entry along with their 2011 licence, four other teams will hope to secure a wild card invitation. Cofidis, FDJ and Europcar seem natural choices but other teams will all be hoping for the last golden ticket to the Tour de France.
Cofidis team manager Eric Boyer is confident that his squad will be given a wild card for the event in July but admits that the decision-making process "must be a dilemma" for ASO.
"I am serene with regards to our participation at the Tour," the Cofidis manager told Cyclingnews on Thursday. "Officially, of course, I have nothing. But I know that ASO are very conscientious about French teams participating in the race, and I think that together with FDJ and Europcar, we have the best chance of getting an invitation."
Other Professional Continental teams bidding for participation are Saur-Sojasun, Skil-Shimano and, above all, Spanish team Geox-TMC, which has former podium finisher Denis Menchov and 2008 Tour winner Carlos Sastre in its ranks. According to Cyclingnews' sources, Geox-TMC looks unlikely to get an invitation to the Tour de France despite its two outstanding team leaders.
"It will be hard for ASO to decide about inviting another French team like Saur-Sojasun. If they invite three French teams, it will already be a lot. There are others - Spanish, Italian, Dutch...," added Boyer, who refused to make any predictions.