British Continental team Le Col-Wahoo are “delighted” after receiving official confirmation of their invitation to race the inaugural Tour de France Femmes this July.
With ten UCI Continental teams invited, and Le Col-Wahoo the 13th on the UCI rankings, the team were hopeful that they would receive an invitation, but only had the news confirmed on Wednesday morning when ASO announced the 24 teams that will compete in the Tour de France Femmes.
“It was a little bit surprising, and we only found out two hours before everyone else did,” said general manager, Tom Varney. “Obviously, we’re really delighted.
“I think we showed ourselves really well last year, and we’ve improved the team and the structure of the team a lot. So we were really hopeful, but it was never guaranteed.”
As well as the 14 WorldTeams, ASO invited the three top-ranked Continental teams and all four French Continental outfits, leaving just three open spots for other teams.
“We had a little bit of a doubt because there’s more and more French Conti teams and they all want to race,” Varney said. “Stade Rochelais turned up and improved what they’re doing, and [St Michel] Auber also did the same, so it was a worry but I had a good feeling about it.”
Le Col-Wahoo have skipped the last few editions of the longest race on the calendar, the Giro Donne, and are set to do the same this year, but said the route of the Tour de France Femmes was particularly attractive as a stage race.
“When we saw the route, that also boosted our desire to participate,” Varney explained. “There’s no TT, there’s a mixture of stages. We have a couple of riders who can excel on a number of different stages.”
Despite losing time trialist and proven GC rider Joss Lowden from their roster in 2022, Varney is confident in the team’s options for July.
“There will be some days where we’ll try and be in the breakaway, some days where we’re trying to prioritise a sprint for someone. Then there’s the Planche des Belles Filles stage where we have Eider [Merino] and on paper it’s perfect for her. Obviously Joss moved on so having no TT is perfect for us in terms of GC and it could be decided on the mountain stages.”
Though the Tour de France Femmes is a key interest for teams, riders and sponsors, Le Col-Wahoo are keen to take a balanced approach to the summer of stage racing with the Women’s Tour, Tour de Féminin and Tour of Scandinavia also important goals for the team.
“The Tour is a big pull for everyone and the sponsors, they want to be there and do their media and everything, it’s the one big show for them. But for us the races either side are really important too.
“Obviously the Tour takes up a lot of everyone’s minds, but we’ll also take the Tour of Scandinavia and the UK races to be equally as important.”
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