The Vuelta a España, the last Grand Tour to announce its wildcard selection for 2013, has named Cofidis, Caja Rural and NetApp-Endura as taking part alongside the 19 WorldTour teams that are automatically selected. As was the case of the Tour de France, the Vuelta opted to reduce the number of their wildcards from the usual four to three after Katusha’s late admission to the WorldTour.
Cofidis is perhaps the least surprising selection of the three. They have long had strong connections with the Vuelta, both thanks to multiple Vuelta King of the Mountains winner and long-time Cofidis rider David Moncoutie and as a sponsor of the race itself. They have also already been selected as a wildcard for this year’s Tour de France.
Caja Rural, already selected for the Vuelta last year, are Spain’s only ProContinental squad and were the ‘home side’ when the race kicked off in the company’s home town of Pamplona last year. They then took an impressive stage win with Seville-born climber Antonio Piedra at the Lagos de Covadonga, one of the race’s best-known ascents and home to some of the last wolves in Europe.
This year Amets Txurruka, the popular Basque rider signed from Euskaltel-Euskadi, kept Caja Rural’s name to the fore with gutsy long-distance breakaways in the Vuelta al País Vasco, and Francesco Lasca, their top sprinter, won the Vuelta a la Rioja as well as the points jersey in the Vuelta a Castilla y León.
NetApp-Endura, one of the sport’s youngest teams, are newcomers to the Vuelta. Although they failed to make it into the Tour de France this summer despite being on the short-list of possible teams, they did race in the Giro d’Italia last year, and will be keen to raise the bar in cycling’s third Grand Tour.