Skil-Shimano first option to replace Vacansoleil-DCM at Tour

Skil-Shimano is relying on a wildcard to gain entry to the Vuelta a España in August but is holding onto a slim hope of an invitation to the Tour de France.

"In principle, the door to the Tour is closed," said team manager Iwan Spekenbrink following discussions with the Amaury Sports Organisation in Doha. "But if 'crazy' things happen, we are the first option. That's because the Tour celebrates our policy."

In an interview with De Telegraaf, Spekenbrink said that he was watching the UCI's Licensing Commission movements, if any, against Vacansoleil-DCM which stands to lose its ProTeam status following incidents involving Riccardo Riccó and 2010 Vuelta a España runner-up Ezequiel Mosquera.

Should Vacansoleil-DCM lose its ProTour license, it could remain as a Professional Continental team. However, the change in status could be a considerable blow to Vacansoleil-DCM as only ProTeams are guaranteed entry into the Grand Tours and the UCI World Tour races.

The Dutch team raced the 2010 season as a Professional Continental squad and was unable to garner an entry to any of the three Grand Tours.

"Vacansoleil has successfully adapted its policies to the system of the UCI," Spekenbrink said. "They look especially for riders who win point. That way they placed themselves at the level of World Tour teams. Their goal is the big races. I think that publicity is important.

"We [Skil-Shimano] do not adjust our philosophy to adjust to the UCI system [of ranking]," he elaborated. "We want talented riders a chance to grow in our team. We prefer to invest in a responsible progression than the points of a rider.

"One of the best examples is perhaps Roger Kluge. We followed him for some time as a good sprinter. A broken collarbone put Kluge out of circulation last year. He was not interesting for other teams because he had few points. "

Last season, Skil-Shimano finished 31st out of the 32 teams listed on the UCI's World Rankings.

Spekenbrink remains optimistic that the Vuelta remains the team's best hope at a Grand Tour invite in 2011 following a solid start to the season at the Tours of Qatar and Oman.

"In discussions with the top levels of the ASO, they said that they appreciate our philosophy and that we had a good chance to ride the Tour of Spain," Spekenbrink explained. "If we however don't receive a wildcard, it would be a great disappointment.

"In our development we need that race. We would miss out not only on exposure for our sponsors, but also for the riders it would be a missed opportunity. I continue to have confidence that our policies will be rewarded."

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