The three wildcard invitations to the 2013 Tour de France have been awarded to French teams Cofidis, Sojasun and Team Europcar, ASO announced on Saturday morning.
With 19 teams in the WorldTour this season following the re-admission of Katusha by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after they had initially been excluded from cycling’s top flight, ASO had just three wildcards to assign, rather than the usual four.
The Europcar squad of Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland was all but guaranteed a berth, as was Cofidis, which has never missed the race since it was founded in 1997. After losing Jerome Coppel to Cofidis during the off-season, Sojasun faced stiff competition from new Swiss squad IAM Cycling, but the French team eventually got the nod.
IAM Cycling began the season strongly with Thomas Lofkvist’s victory at the Tour Mediterranéen but they fell short in the classics and their only win since came in a stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe.
For their part, Sojasun have taken only three victories this season – all through Jonathan Hivert and all in February – and the team has downscaled slightly this year. Its commitment to nurturing French talent remains, however, and with ASO keen to preserve a certain French presence in the Tour peloton, its selection is not a surprise.
Cofidis, too, have only claimed three wins to date in 2013, but their Tour roster is likely to include riders of the calibre of Rein Taaramae, Christophe Le Mevel, Daniel Navarro and Jerome Coppel.
Europcar, meanwhile, have already clocked up 13 wins in 2013 and the presence of Voeckler and Rolland, who have each finished in the top ten and won stages in the past two seasons, meant that Jean-René Bernaudeau’s squad’s participation was never in doubt.
2013 therefore marks the third year in succession that ASO has awarded all of its available wildcards to French squads. With FDJ and Ag2r-La Mondiale automatically invited as WorldTour teams, it means that there are five French squads in the Tour for the third year in succession.
Speaking to Cyclingnews this month, Tour director Christian Prudhomme said that deciding on the wildcards would be a "heart-breaking process, rather than a brainteaser" and ultimately, it is IAM Cycling - as well as other hopefuls Bretagne-Seche and NetApp-Endura - who have been left disappointed this time around.