ASO announces 20 teams for 2008 Tour de France
By Gregor Brown
The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has announced the 20 teams that will partake in the 2008 edition of the Tour de France, July 5 to 27. The organiser of the world's largest cycling event confirmed its controversial decision to exclude the team of defending champion Alberto Contador, Astana, but has included USA's promising new team, Slipstream Chipotle - H30.
Slipstream manager Jonathan Vaughters was happy to be back on the road to the Tour de France, after having last ridden the event in 2002. The team had planned its season around a possible bid for the Tour, but the invitation was not a given. "I've come to never expect anything in cycling: it's funny, we were given an invite to the Tour but not for Gent-Wevelgem!"
Comprising the list of 20 teams are the 17 ProTour teams (minus Astana) and three Professional Continental teams, Agritubel (Fra), Slipstream Chipotle - H30 (USA) and Barloworld (GBr). The ProTour teams are Gerolsteiner and Team Milram (Ger), Quick Step and Silence-Lotto (Bel), Team CSC (Den), Caisse d'Epargne, Euskaltel-Euskadi and Saunier-Duval-Scott (Spa), High Road (USA), Bouygues Telecom, Crédit Agricole, Cofidis, Française des Jeux and AG2R La Mondiale (Fra), Lampre and Liquigas (Ita), Rabobank (Ned).
During a meeting between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and five national federations (including France) in January, the UCI stated that all 18 ProTour teams must be invited to the Tour de France. However, February 12, ASO said it had no intention on inviting Team Astana following its problems in last year's event.
Slipstream's invitation comes as a welcome sign and a follow-up to its participation in ASO's Paris-Nice last week. The team, which was also invited to race in the Giro d'Italia, is headed by Jonathan Vaughters and boasts star riders such as Magnus Backstedt, David Millar and David Zabriskie. In addition, it has a strong anti-doping programme in place.
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