The third Dutch professional cycling team, Project 1t4i (formerly Skil-Shimano) is confident that it will take part in the 2012 Tour de France. Team manager Iwan Spekenbrink has told the Telegraaf that he was counting on racing the French Grand Tour as he elaborated the outfit's race programme for the upcoming season.
"As we make our season plans, we are starting on the premises that the chance is great that we will race the Tour," Spekenbrink said. "We were just four points short of a WorldTour licence, which would have assured us the participation in all the biggest competitions. On a sporting level, we are superior to teams like Cofidis and Saur."
Last year, the Tour organisers raised the number of participating teams to 22, inviting four Professional Continental outfits on top of the 18 squads that were guaranteed entry for their UCI ProTeam licences. All four invited teams were French (FDJ, Europcar, Cofidis and Saur-Sojasun), but as FDJ has been given World Tour status in 2012, 'only' three French Pro Continental teams have to rely on an invitation, leaving at least one door open to a foreign team.
Spekenbrink counts on his two German sprinters, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, to make the cut. Tour organiser ASO has already invited the Dutch squad to the Tours of Qatar and Oman, which is also a good sign in view of the biggest race on the calendar.
"Kittel could be a challenger to Mark Cavendish next year. The Tour will certainly consider that," added the Dutchman.