By Hedwig Kröner in Paris
Three weeks prior to Team Slipstream Sports/Chipotle's official launch in Boulder, Colorado, manager Jonathan Vaughters spent a week in Paris, France, to attend the international Anti-Doping summit and hold talks with Tour de France organiser ASO, lobbying for the squad's inclusion in the 2008 Grand Tour. However, not much work was really needed as the American team known for its strong stance against doping has made important new rider signings lately, and relations with ASO officials have been good.
"I think we'll have a great team next year, and as long as we perform to our capabilities in the first part of the season we'll do the Tour de France," Vaughters told Cyclingnews just before the 2008 Tour de France route presentation. "There is certainly no signed document at this point, but I'm confident that we'll get an invitation. There will probably be four or five wildcards, and I assume Barloworld will get one, as well as Agritubel."
The young American team manager is not particularly interested in getting a ProTour licence at the moment. "For us, the most important part right now is to get the race invites we want," he continued. "As for the ProTour, we still don't know where it is headed at this stage. Will there even be a ProTour in the next few years? Still, we talked to the UCI about it, and they were actually positive about us. But then the ProTour council decided that there were only going to be 18 teams, so we didn't apply for a licence. And it's good for them to actually leave it at 18, because it gives the Grand Tours more flexibility for their race invitations. Then, in 2009, there will be a big shift as most of the teams' ProTour licenses come up – so we will know how it goes then."
However, it would seem that at the moment that Slipstream/Chipotle does not need a ProTour license to be included in next year's Grand Tours. Vaughters revealed that the week spent in France really was worth the travelling, as Giro d'Italia organiser Angelo Zomegnan also suggested that the team would be welcome in the Italian Grand Tour. "He came up to me this week and said that they'd love to have an American team in their race," Vaughters continued, excited about the prospect. "I was really flattered and surprised, but he was very interested and told me that he had spent time in Boulder, Colorado, when he was young. I'm very excited about that race."
So it was all good news for Slipstream/Chipotle leaders David Millar, Dave Zabriskie, Magnus Backstedt, Christian Vande Velde and Julian Dean – the perspective of at least two Grand Tours in 2008 for the team based in Girona, Spain, is definitely an interesting one, also for the fans of the squad, which has made the fight against doping one of its first prerogatives. Watch out for more news from Jonathan Vaughters and his opinion of the new biological passport on Cyclingnews at the beginning of next week, also ready a July interview with him, Slipstreaming with Le Tour in sight.