Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has announced that there will only be three wildcard invitations on offer for this year’s race following the belated admission of Katusha to the WorldTour.
Katusha was originally omitted from the UCI WorldTour in December of last year but successfully appealed the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. On Monday, the UCI confirmed that it would not relegate another team to make room for Katusha and that the WorldTour will thus be made up of 19 teams in 2013.
Speaking to AFP on Tuesday, Prudhomme said that ASO would now issue three wildcard invitations to the Tour de France rather than the usual four, thus keeping the field at 198 riders and 22 teams. “Given that the invitations haven’t been made yet, there will only be 22 teams at the Tour de France,” Prudhomme said.
ASO has already issued its wildcard invitations for Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné, however, and had opted to overlook Katusha. Prudhomme explained that Katusha would now be allowed to take part in both races, with the field of each race being expanded to 23 teams.
“We couldn’t leave a team on the side of the road,” said Prudhomme.
Europcar, Cofidis, Sojasun and IAM Cycling have been handed wildcard places for Paris-Nice, while Europcar, Cofidis, Bretagne-Séché and Team NetApp-Endura have been invited to the Critérium du Dauphiné.
With only three wildcard berths now on offer, competition for invitations to the Tour de France is set to become even more keenly contested.
Last year, ASO handed three of its four wildcard places to French teams (Cofidis, Saur-Sojasun and Europcar), while Argos-Shimano took the fourth. Argos-Shimano automatically qualifies as a WorldTour team this time around but the three French squads are among the teams again in the hunt for a wildcard berth in 2013.
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