The Amaury Sport Organisation, which runs Paris-Roubaix, announced 24 teams for the 105th edition of the race according to AFP, and true to form, the Unibet.com team has been left off the list once again. Despite Unibet announcing that they would race under the name of their bike sponsor, Canyon bikes, for all races in France, and contrary to the agreement with the UCI to consider Unibet for wildcards, the ASO stuck to their decision to invite only the 18 original ProTour teams from the beginning of December.
Wildcard spots were given to Astana, Wiesenhof-Felt, Chocolade-Jacques, Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner, Agritubel, and Skil-Shimano, despite earlier reports that the American Team Slipstream had merited an invite.
While Unibet was invited to participate in Saturday's Milan-San Remo, but the lack of racing is affecting the squad, who have had to race in smaller races while the rest of the ProTour squads took part in Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Even before the Paris-Nice announcement, Unibet manager Jacques Hanegraaf told L'Equipe, "We are the victims of the war between the UCI and the Grand Tours. All the classifications of ProTour from now on are distorted." Hanegraaf continued, "How do I explain to the riders that they cannot take part in the first important races of the season?
"We were excluded from the first two races of ProTour, all therefore all of the classifications are distorted. We have a ProTour licence for four years, but our riders have been until now excluded from competition. It is ridiculous."
The 18 ProTour teams are: Gerolsteiner, T-Mobile, Quick Step, Predictor-Lotto, Team CSC, Caisse d'Epargne, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Saunier Duval, Discovery Channel, AG2R, Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, Française des Jeux, Lampre, Liquigas, Milram, and Rabobank.
Wiesenhof happy with wildcard
Team Wiesenhof-Felt was pleased with their invitation to the 'Hell of the North'. The German Professional Continental team, which is heavily oriented to the spring classics, will now be able to take part in Paris-Roubaix, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and Amstel Gold Race.
The invite will likely give former T-mobile rider Steffen Wesemann another shot at the 'Hell of the North'. Wesemann finished on the podium in 2002, taking second place to Johann Museeuw, and one step above a then relatively unknown name - Tom Boonen.
"That is a great honour for us and a great compliment for our work to date," said team manager Raphael Schweda. "We may now start at four of the big Spring Classics of the ProTour, that gives us additional strength and will be a further motivation for our team."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'