Will Rodríguez be on the start line for Katusha?
Organisers of the Amstel Gold Race have announced that ProContinental outfits Katusha and NetApp - Endura are the first two beneficiaries of wildcards for the April 14 event.
It's particularly good news for Katusha after they surprisingly missed out on a UCI WorldTour licence in December last year - their case against the sport's governing body set to be heard by the the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne later today. Katusha are currently registered as a Pro Continental team, and have already been overlooked for wildcard invitations to the Giro d'Italia and Paris-Nice.
The event says that the Katusha team will be led by Joaquím Rodríguez, who finished as runner up to Philippe Gilbert in 2011. However, Rodríguez's appearance for Katusha must surely hinge on the success for the team's appeal to the CAS, given it's been made clear that the 33-year-old will leave in order to ride the Tour de France.
Meantime, NetApp - Endura team manager Ralph Denk said that the newly merged outfit will not just be on the start line to make up the numbers.
"We applied for the Amstel Gold Race this year quite deliberately," he said. "Our achievements last season convinced the organizers, so we got one of the coveted wildcards. We are grateful for their confidence and, as always, will do our best to make this an interesting race.
"In the context of our new signings, we have clearly become stronger for the classics," Denk continued. "We really want to show our strengths during the week in the Ardennes. With the Amstel Gold Race we were able to secure one of the three classics we wanted. Participation at Liège-Bastogne-Liège or Flèche Wallonne would be the icing on the cake."
NetApp - Endura has also received wildcard invitations to Tirreno - Adriatico, II Lombardia and Critérium du Dauphiné.