The organisers of the Tour de France have confirmed the names of the teams that will line up for this year's race, with French teams Cofidis, Solutions Credits, Direct Energie, Fortuneo-Samsic and Wanty-Groupe Gobert of Belgium securing the four wild card invitations to compete alongside the 18 WorldTour teams.
The Vital Concept team, which is the new home to French sprinter Bryan Coquard, has missed out on a place in the Tour, but was given the consolation of a place in the Criterium du Dauphine (June 3-10). Cofidis, Fortuneo-Samsic and Wanty-Groupe Gobert were also invited to the Criterium du Dauphine, with Direct Energie overlooked.
Cofidis, Delko Marseille, Direct Energie and Fortuneo-Samsic are the four teams invited to Paris-Nice (March 4-11).
This year's Tour starts on July 7 in the Vendee region of western France and passes through Brittany and the north before visiting the Alps and the Pyrenees, and finishing in Paris on July 29.
Vital Concept was created for 2018 by former rider Jerome Pineau. He had hoped the arrival of Coquard – who missed the 2017 Tour due to his bitter divorce from Direct Energie – would be enough to secure an invitation to the Tour de France in their first season.
The strong showing of Wanty-Groupe Gobert in the 2017 Tour de France, however, meant that the Belgian team could not be overlooked for this year's race. Wanty-Groupe Gobert fielded a team composed entirely of Tour debutants in 2017, and all nine riders made it to Paris after frequently going on the attack.
The talented young French rider Guillaume Martin finishing 23rd overall and fifth in the best young rider classification. Wanty-Groupe Gobert also has Yohann Offredo, Italy's Andrea Pasqualon and Belgium's Guillaume van Keirsbulck on its 2018 roster.
Disappointment for Coquard
While the four selected teams celebrated via social media, Bryan Coquard vented his disappointment in a brief message on Twitter: “Not invited before we've even had a chance to pin a race number on. Very disappointed," the Frenchman wrote.
Coquard raced the Tour on three occasions during his time at Europcar and Direct Energie, and narrowly missed out on a sprint win in Limoges in 2016. The 25-year-old was left out of Direct Energie's line-up for last year's Tour when he refused to extend his contract with the team and opted to switch to Vital Concept.
Teams such as Aqua Blue Sport, Delko Marseille, Gazprom-Rusvelo, CCC Sprandi, Caja Rural also missed out. They will be hoping to secure a wild card invitation to the Vuelta a Espana or Giro d'Italia, and will have to plan their race programmes away from the biggest French stage races.
Under UCI WorldTour rules the 18 WorldTour teams are automatically invited to the Tour de France, with race organisers allowed to invite other teams via wild card system.
The 18 WorldTour teams are AG2R La Mondiale (Fra), Astana (Kaz), Bahrain-Merida (Brn), BMC (USA), Bora-Hansgrohe (Ger), FDJ (Fra), Lotto Soudal (Bel), Mitchelton-Scott (Aus), Movistar Team (Spa), Quick-Step Floors (Bel), Team Dimension Data (SA), Team EF Education First–Drapac (USA), Katusha-Alpecin (Sui), Lotto NL-Jumbo (Ned), Team Sky (Gbr), Team Sunweb (Ger), Trek-Segafredo (USA), and UAE Team Emirates (UAE).
The four wild card teams for each race are as follows:
Tour de France: Cofidis, (Fra), Direct Energie (Fra), Team Fortuneo-Samsic (Fra), Wanty-Groupe Gobert (Bel).
Paris-Nice: Cofidis (Fra), Delko Marseille Provence (Fra), Direct Energie (Fra), Team Fortuneo-Samsic (Fra).
Criterium du Dauphine: Cofidis, Team Fortuneo-Samsic (Fra), Vital Concept (Fra), Wanty-Groupe Gobert (Bel).