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Nairo Quintana hopeful of Giro d'Italia wildcard for Arkéa-Samsic

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) on the offensive on stage 8 of the 2020 Tour de France
Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Nairo Quintana has expressed hope that his Arkéa-Samsic squad will earn one of the three wildcard spots at the 2021 Giro d’Italia. RCS Sport is expected to announce its wildcard invitations on Wednesday, while the route is due to be presented next week.

Grand Tour organisers have been permitted to assign an additional 23rd team and so an extra wildcard berth this year after 2020 Europe Tour winner Alpecin-Fenix confirmed that they would avail of their automatic invitation to the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta a España.

ASO has invited the three leading French ProTeams – Ark­éa-Samsic, B&B Hotels p/b KTM and Total Direct Energie – to the 2021 Tour. RCS Sport is expected to favour Italian ProTeams with its wildcards, but Quintana’s Ark­éa-Samsic squad have applied for a spot too. The Colombian won the race on his debut in 2014 and placed second behind Tom Dumoulin three years later.

“We’re waiting for them to give us the okay. We hope we can have it, because it’s a race I’ve really enjoyed,” Quintana said, according to ciclismocolombiano.com

“I’ve done it twice. I was first once and second the other time. It’s a race that’s quite favourable for me.”

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has confirmed his participation in the Corsa Rosa, as he recovers from his back injury and Quintana picked his fellow countryman as a favourite along with Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). 

"I think Egan is the strongest, without detracting from the others," Quintana said.

Quintana finished his 2020 season under a cloud after it emerged that French police had opened an investigation after searching his room in the final week of the Tour de France. He said that the authorities had seized only legal vitamin supplements, insisting he has "been a clean cyclist throughout my sporting life."

The 31-year-old subsequently had surgery on both knees in October, having been diagnosed with a fractured patella following crashes at the Tour, where he placed 17th overall. 

He is due to start his 2021 season at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var (February 19-21), while Tirreno-Adriatico is also on his schedule.

Six contenders for three wild card places

RCS Sport had three wildcards at its disposal for last year’s Giro after Total Direct Energie declined to take up their automatic invitation, and there was little surprise when the organiser selected three home teams in Androni Giocattoli, Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè and Vini Zabù.

Those three squads are all in contention for the wildcard berths in 2021, along with new Italian ProTeam, Eolo-Kometa, whose management includes Ivan Basso and Alberto Contador.

Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec were, as ever, an aggressive presence at the 2020 Giro, with Simon Pellaud prominent and they have signed Eduardo Sepulveda for the new season, while Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè have added experience to their roster by signing Giovanni Visconti and Enrico Battaglin. Sprinter Jakub Mareczko has returned to Luca Scinto’s Vini Zabù squad after two years with CCC.

Basso’s Eolo-Kometa team brought in 13 new riders for their first season as a ProTeam, with veterans Francesco Gavazzi and Manuel Belletti the most notable arrivals.

Beyond Ark­­­éa-Samsic and the four Italian ProTeams, Gazprom-RusVelo have also applied for a wildcard spot at the Giro after strengthening their line-up during the off-season by signing Ilnur Zakarin and Roman Kreuziger, who have each placed in the top five at the Giro. Gazprom-RusVelo previously earned a wildcard invitation to the Giro in 2016 and 2017.

The 2021 Giro will take place from May 8-30 and gets underway with a nine-kilometre individual time trial in Turin.