Team Sky look set to receive an invitation to the 2011 Amgen Tour of California after race director Andrew Messick told Cyclingnews that, “It’s very difficult for us to contemplate a scenario in which Sky aren’t part of our race.”
The ProTeam recently signed 2010 race winner Michael Rogers from HTC on a two-year contract. Although the British team did not participate in the 2010 edition of the race they could conceivably line up with the likes of Rogers, Bradley Wiggins and Edvald Boasson Hagen for next year’s event.
“It’s hard not to invite the defending champion,” Messick told Cyclingnews.
“I talked to Dave Brailsford at the Tour de France route announcement. He very much wants to be part of our event and is serious and committed about building a competitive team given how well Mick Rogers raced last year. I think he’s a worthy champion. It’s hard to see how we would not have them part of the race.”
When Rogers joined Sky he announced that he would turn away from grand tour GC rides and concentrate on week-long stage races after having possibly his best season to date. Along with his win in California, he took top honours in the Vuelta a Andalucia. He also finished second overall in the Criterium International and third in the Tour de Romandie.
However Sky’s possible inclusion could spell bad news for any one of a number of other ProTeams hoping for an invitation from Messick. As the Amgen Tour is a 2.HC race, Messick is allowed to construct a field made up of fifty per cent ProTeams and fifty per cent Pro Continental and domestic teams. Historically, the race has invited 16 teams in total, meaning only eight eligible places for the world’s best squads.
According to Messick, Sky’s inclusion “creates a problem somewhere down the line.”
“If you think of the teams that have a lot of history in our race… we’ve had Saxo Bank there every year, Rabobank there almost every year, Liquigas won three stages last year, there’s Sky, there’s the Luxembourg team, Quickstep.”
Any selection headaches are enhanced by the fact that Messick is set to invite US teams Garmin-Cervelo, HTC-Highroad, Radioshack and BMC. All four squads are likely to be ProTeam in 2011.
“I think it would be difficult not to invite all four American ProTeams. As the largest race in the United States I think we’d need a reason not to invite them.”
Should Sky and America’s biggest teams take up Messick’s invitation it could potentially leave ten to twelve teams scrambling for the final three spots.
“The criterion that we use is, what teams do we think are going to help the race? There are a number of dimensions to that, there’s strictly competition, which teams we think are going to bring riders that are going to win stages and animate the race. Then there’s a bunch of teams that have riders that resonate with cycling fans across the Unites States. People want to see George Hincapie race his bike, they want to see Levi, they want to see Lance.”
“There are a certain number of riders that people want to see, to the extent that those athletes are contemplating and considering being part of our race and not racing somewhere else.”
The full route for next year’s race is yet to be announced, with Messick confirming that full stage details will be available in late December or early January.