The Professional Continental teams are at the whim of the race organisers when it comes to getting into the highest-profile events of the season, and when those invitations come, there is cause for celebration. The UnitedHealthcare, MTN-Qhubeka, NetApp-Endura and Colombia teams were among those expressing gratitude for the call-up by the Amaury Sport Organisation to Paris-Roubaix, La Flèche Wallonne or Liège - Bastogne - Liège.
For the first time in its history, UnitedHealthcare will be on the start line for Paris-Roubaix and La Flèche Wallonne, and general manager Mike Tamayo credits the team's hard work over the past few years to establish its reputation in the one-day races.
"Getting wildcard selections for both Paris-Roubaix and La Flèche Wallonne is an enormous honor," Tamayo said. "Having a rider like Martijn Maaskant who has finished 4th in Roubaix before gives us ample motivation to support him."
MTN-Qhubeka's goal for the year was to get into either the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France, but while neither materialised, team principal Douglas Ryder was encouraged to earn the faith of the ASO for the Classics.
"It's wonderful to receive this news and now have the biggest WorldTour calendar we've ever had," Ryder said. "To line up as Africa's team on the start line of the 100th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège is especially significant for the sport and something we'll see the rewards of years from now.
"We've not been confirmed for a Grand Tour yet but what it's done is motivated the guys more to prove we're capable of racing at the top level of the sport and we're very grateful to be there."
Team Colombia, selected for Flèche Wallonne for the third time, will make its debut in Liège - Bastogne - Liège, and general manager Claudio Corti was especially pleased to make the 100th edition the team's first attempt.
"To be selected for a Monument classic like Liege-Bastogne-Liege obviously marks another milestone in the history of our team. It's one of the greatest races in the World, and we can't wait to show the Colombian colors at La Doyenne," Corti said.
The German NetApp-Endura team was invited to Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, making it the fourth time the squad has been selected for the Hell of the North, but it also marks its first start in La Doyenne. The team was also given the honour of being selected for the Tour de France.
"Both wildcards are especially important for us," team manager Ralph Denk said. "Roubaix is the most famous spring Classic race in France and starting there is a highlight on every rider's palmarès. This year our selection will account for the fact that the Tour de France will cover some of the cobblestone sections."
NetApp-Endura was also given wildcard invitations to Milan-Sanremo and Il Lombardia. "We have a first-class Classic lineup this season. The team is already looking forward to hearing the decision about the Tour of Flanders. I am optimistic that our riders will be able to include all five Monuments on their schedule this year. The team is accordingly motivated in its preparations," Denk said.
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