After Tour de France organiser ASO announced the wild card invitations to the 2010 Grand Tour earlier this week, the manager of French Pro Continental team Saur-Sojasun, Stéphane Heulot, has spoken out angrily against the non-selection of his squad, saying that "the cycling of the past prevailed over a team of future hopefuls."
Heulot, who directs a team of mostly young riders, was disappointed at ASO's decision to privilege international top teams in its invitations when, earlier this year, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme had indicated that smaller outfits like Saur-Sojasun, Skil-Shimano or Vacansoleil also had their chances if they showed good early season performances.
"They made us believe that there was a competition on a sporting level, while it seems clear now that the file was closed many weeks ago," Heulot said in a press release. "It's not a case of being 'bad losers', quite simply because there never was any match. The selection criteria and the rules of the game were never clearly defined."
The team manager was saddened his young guns would miss their opportunity to defy international pros at the Tour, and said this kind of competition would have been of great benefit to the outfit.
"We needed this competition to grow," he explained. "We are engaged in a long-term project with young French riders who need top-level competitions to express their talent and give world-class cycling a fresh breeze. But if we don't participate in these events, we won't be able to make them progress. So people shouldn't be surprised that French cycling doesn't develop like it should..."
While he accepted the decision, Heulot later vented more steam to the media. Speaking to 20minutes.fr, the team manager especially criticised the wild card invitation of US squad BMC Racing Team.
"This choice is based on one man only [Cadel Evans - ed.]," he continued. "Of course, he's the World Champion, but he didn't achieve anything at the Tour last year. Moreover, objectively speaking, BMC hasn't won a race yet. And let's not forget that this team is directed by the same people who were the management of Phonak [which was dismantled after several doping affairs - ed.]. It just hurts to see these people, who are neither deaf nor blind to what has happened, come back all proud to the sport, taking on the World Champion as their only asset for a Tour de France selection."
But Heulot hadn't finished fuming. Speaking about newly-formed teams Sky and RadioShack, he added, "It annoys me to see that a million dollars transfer market allows a qualification for the Tour de France. Let's be clear: Today, Evans has no chance of winning the Tour. His decision was one of money, but he has no team. And if he can't start in the Tour, who will be the team's leader? Hincapie? Great - another young promise...!"
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