Speaking at the launch of the 2010 Tour de France grand départ in Rotterdam, race director Christian Prudhomme has admitted that many teams will be disappointed such is the level of competition for a place at next year's event.
"Many teams would be disappointed if our invitations for the 2010 Tour de France had been sent [today]," Prudhomme told AP. "The choice is harder than the previous years."
Prudhomme recognised the advent of several new, high-profile and powerful squads, including Radio Shack, Team Sky and a rejuvenated BMC Racing Team that includes road race world champion Cadel Evans and experienced Tour rider George Hincapie. "In recent years we selected 20 teams. Even if we expand to 22 teams, the maximum permitted number, it is a difficult choice," explained Prudhomme.
"This year seemed the transfer market in cycling seemed to like that of football. The big names are dispersed across more teams and there are many new strong formations," he added.
Under an agreement with the International Cycling Union (UCI), 16 teams are granted automatic entry to next year's edition of the season's premier stage race. "So there remain four to six wildcards to distribute," explained Prudhomme. "And that is not much. There are certainly 26 or 27 teams that participate and are worth [riding] the Tour."
Squads not given an automatic berth include Radio Shack, Team Sky, BMC Racing, Vacansoleil, Saur Sojasun, Katyusha, Garmin-Transitions, Cervélo and Skil-Shimano.