Grand Tour vs. ProTour row continues
By Gregor Brown
Holding true to the Grand Tour organizers' word, RCS Sport has announced that the Giro d'Italia will have 22 teams including four wild cards, but conspicuously absent from the list was the ProTour team Unibet.com. Two-time Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli's Astana team was listed among eight wild-card teams, of which four will be chosen on February 16.
RCS Sport also gave the right to ProTour teams Caisse d'Epargne, Gerolsteiner and Rabobank to decline their invitation*, providing they let the organizer know by February 16, the same day that the organizers will select its final wild cards (four, or more depending on the decision of the three ProTour teams).
On Monday, RCS Sport announced the invited teams and wild cards that would be considered for its races, including the three-week Giro d'Italia, May 12 - June 3, Tirreno-Adriatico, and Milano-Sanremo. A list of 18 ProTour teams were guaranteed participation, and a wild-card list of eight was named, but nowhere mentioned in its announcement was the ProTour team Unibet.com, which has also been snubbed by the ASO for Paris-Nice and Unipublic, organizer of the Vuelta a España.
The announcement is the latest in the long-running spat between the UCI and the Grand Tour organizers which dates back to the inception of the ProTour. In December, the Grand Tour organizers issued a statement in which they considered only the current 18 teams (excluding Astana and Unibet.com) to be part of the ProTour and that it would "not be compulsory for teams to compete" in its races. Earlier this month, the fight escalated when the ASO failed to invite Unibet.com to Paris-Nice, a move which the UCI views as in direct violation of their rules.
RCS Sport extended their selection method to La Classicissima, Milano-Sanremo, again allowing the three ProTour teams able to opt-out, and selecting six wild cards out of a list of nine,expanding the list to Ireland-registered Tenax-Salmilano; making for a list of 24 teams of eight riders.
The 18 ProTour teams:
Ag2r Prévoyance (Fra)
Bouygues Telecom (Fra)
Crédit Agricole (Fra)
Discovery Channel (USA)
Française Des Jeux (Fra)
Saunier Duval-Prodir (Spa)
Team CSC (Dan)
Caisse d'Epargne (Spa)*
Eight wild cards: (four, or more*, selected on February 16.)
Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo (Ita)
Ceramica Flaminia (Ita)
Ceramica Panaria-Navigare (Irl)
Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia (Ven)
Team LPR (Swi)
Tinkoff Credit Systems (Ita)
Tenax-Salmilano (Milano-Sanremo only)
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'