The Swiss national team has been awarded a wildcard invitation to the 2019 Tour de Suisse thanks to a rule change approved by the UCI at last year’s World Championships in Innsbruck.
The national selection joins Professional Continental outfits Rally UHC Cycling and Direct Energie as the three squads invited to participate in the Tour de Suisse alongside the 18 WorldTour teams.
It is likely that the Swiss team at the nine-day Tour de Suisse will be composed primarily of under-23 riders, as well as elite riders who have not yet raced at the top level. The UCI rule change has angered the Professional Continental teams but Danilo Hondo, the Swiss national team coach for elite and under-23 men, has welcomed the decision to allow his selection to participate in their national tour.
"It’s extremely valuable for us to be able to offer our young athletes the chance to see how they measure up at the highest level in this fantastic race," Hondo said.
Switzerland has been a force at under-23 level in recent seasons, and Marc Hirschi, now of Team Sunweb, won the under-23 world and European road race titles in 2018.
Although the Tour de Suisse only formally announced its three wildcards on Tuesday morning, the race organisation had long hinted at the likely participation of the Swiss national team.
Last September, Tour de Suisse sports director David Loosli hailed the prospect: "We can provide a showcase for young riders not yet under contract with a major team. I’m happy to welcome them on a dream parcours with stage arrivals such as the Gotthard Pass summit."
American squad Rally UHC bolstered their roster during the off-season thanks to the arrival of Svein Tuft from Mitchelton-Scott, while former world junior time trial champion Brandon McNulty continues his development on the team.
Direct Energie are still vying for one of two remaining Tour de France wildcard places, and have strengthened their 2019 line-up by signing Niki Terpstra from Deceuninck-QuickStep.
The 2019 Tour de Suisse takes place from June 15-23, and is set to feature a summit finish on the St. Gotthard Pass on stage 7. Richie Porte claimed overall victory in 2018.
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