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The director of the Tour de France, Christian Prudhomme, has defended the decision to award the four wild card invitations to this year’s race to French squads, saying he has done it help French cycling.
ASO announced the 22 teams that will ride this year’s Tour de France on Wednesday afternoon. They stuck to an agreement with the UCI to invite all 18 ProTeam squads, and awarded the four wild card places to Cofidis, Saur - Sojasun, FDJ and Team Europcar.
The Geox-TMC team missed out on a place despite having 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre and Russia’s Denis Menchov in the squad. Menchov won the 2009 Giro d’Italia and was third in the 2010 Tour de France.
"This is a consequence of our decision to helping French cycling,” Prudhomme told the AFP news agency.
“Now it’s time for the French riders to show that we were right to trust them. We have the best 18 teams in the world and with the other teams we have emblematic riders: Voeckler at Europcar, Moncoutié at Cofidis, and Fédrigo and Casar at FDJ. And Saur-Sojasun has (Jérôme) Coppel, who is without a doubt one of the best hopes in French cycling for stage races.”
Prudhomme denied that ASO announced the teams so early in the year to avoid having to judge the teams on early-season sporting merit.
“Not at all. There are new rules with the 18 teams having already been selected. There were just four invitations remaining and only one French team (AG2R-La Mondiale) was among the 18, so we clearly preferred national (French) teams. Four of the five French second division teams have been selected and the fifth was selected for Paris-Nice. Why wait until the beginning of the season? It didn’t give much guidance in last few years.”