French Professional Continental team Saur-Sojasun has applied for an increased number of race invitations to World Tour events in 2012. Team manager Stéphane Heulot explained that it was necessary to participate in as many top level races as possible for his riders to fine-tune their abilities.
"We want to do a lot of World Tour races and expand our programme," Heulot told Velochrono. "We realized that by participating and shining in the World Tour, we made progress and developed our riders - especially a solid group like ours. Even if, at one point, we'll have to sign other riders to step up, we can already make our riders grow without looking somewhere else."
On top of the obvious World Tour events organised by French group ASO, the squad has sent wildcard applications to all the races organised by Italian company RCS (Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-Sanremo, Giro di Lombardia and Giro d'Italia), as well as to the organisers of the Tour de Romandie, Tour de Suisse, Vuelta a Cataluna and the two Canadian Classics.
"Those are the races that correspond to our capacities. We don't want to participate just for participating: we're asking for invites that are coherent with our means," he added.
Heulot was generally satisfied with the outcome of the team in 2011, and hopes that an increased number of World Tour races will make his riders more competitive. Nevertheless, he complained that the current system of race entry attribution was unfair to the Professional Continental teams on a financial level.
"Today, the Professional Continental teams are the poor relations of the system," Heulot said. "It comes down to the team that will sell itself the best, that will accept to travel at its own expense, etc. Unfortunately, it's come to this, and we have to accept it if we want our riders to race. But it generates additional expenses that were not budgeted. Of course, we understand the difficulties everyone experiences, but it's easy to blame the crisis..."