The Italian Professional Continental teams are in a fight for wildcard invitations to the 2016 Giro d'Italia after race director Mauro Vegni revealed that he is unlikely to award the four wildcards to the four Italian teams.
The Southeast team is certain to have a place after winning the season-long Coppa Italia race series in 2015 but Androni-Sidermec, Nippo-Vini Fantini, and Bardiani-CSF are fighting for other places, with Vegni set to give at least one of the remaining three wildcard invitations to teams outside of Italy.
Under UCI rules, the WorldTour teams are given automatic invitations. With Dimension Data expected to secure the 18th WorldTour slot for 2016, there will only be four wildcard places up for grabs in the 22-team peloton.
The 2016 Giro d'Italia starts in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and this has raised interest from several from several northern European Professional Continental teams for 2016. The Polish-registered CCC Sprandi team was given an invitation in 2015 and would apparently like to return in 2016. The US-registered UnitedHealthcare team has chased an invitation for several years, as has Spanish squad Caja Rural. Direct Energie (formerly Europcar), Cofidis in France, and Bora-Argon 18 of Germany could also be in the hunt for wildcard places.
Vegni has always said he will support Italian teams and Italian cycling just as ASO helps French teams at the Tour de France. However, at least one team is set to miss out in 2016.
"It's not realistic to think I'll give the thee other places to Italian teams and it wouldn't be right," Vegni told Tuttobiciweb. "Italian teams can't sell themselves on the back of an automatic invitation to the Giro just because they're Italian. Teams get to ride the Giro if they are a good team and have good riders."
Poor results in 2015
The Italian teams struggled in 2015, with only Bardiani-CSF winning a stage at the Giro d'Italia. Androni was hit by two doping positives and was suspended from racing in August.
"I think its fair to say we didn't see any great results (from the Italian teams). That said, I'm morally obliged to give a hand to our teams. But a hand, not two hands. At the moment, only Southeast, who own the Coppa Italia competition in 2015, can say it's sure of a place," Vegni said, confirming that business interests such as international television rights and future start locations can all play a factor.
"As a company we've got to think about our races and about international growth. For example the Bora team could open up the German market for us. That's what me and my staff have to consider," he said.
"It's still early to say who will be invited because we've had requests from lots of teams around the world. We'll carefully study their dossiers, considering every aspect: the quality of the team and its riders, the importance of their nationality and how well they communicate. If there aren't any delays with the UCI (regarding licences), we expect to name the four teams in early January."