While ASO’s decision to award the three Tour de France wildcards to three French teams was hardly a surprise, Tour director Christian Prudhomme has insisted that it was not simply a question of supporting home teams and pointed to the sporting merits behind Cofidis, Europcar and Sojasun’s invitations.
Prudhomme said that “there was never any debate” over the participation of the Europcar team of Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland, but admitted that the cases of Cofidis and Sojasun required a little more deliberation.
“Up to now, Cofidis’ results have been thin but with riders like Jerome Coppel, Rein Taaramae, Dani Navarro and Christophe Le Mével, the team gave us some compelling arguments that we had to keep in mind,” Prudhomme told L’Équipe, before admitting that the final wildcard slot came down to a straight battle between Sojasun and IAM Cycling.
“In the latest Europe Tour classification, Sojasun is ahead of IAM Cycling and we took into consideration when we made the cut off,” Prudhomme said. “We’ve seen a lot of [IAM Cycling] since the start of the season and they weren’t missing much. It’s a team that’s started well. Frankly, a fourth invitation would have been welcome.
With 19 teams in the WorldTour this year following Katusha’s successful appeal of its initial exclusion from cycling’s top flight, ASO had just three places to assign in 2013 rather than the usual four. Giro d’Italia organisers RCS had already named its four wildcards when Katusha was added to the WorldTour, and consequently there are 23 teams at the Giro, but Prudhomme was not keen on having a peloton in excess of 200 riders at the Tour.
“It wasn’t simple,” Prudhomme said. “My big regret is that we had no choice but to invite only three teams. But having over 200 riders on the start line would not have made any sense.”