Vacansoleil's Johnny Hoogerland has welcomed a proposal by Tour de France organisers to increase the number of wild card teams invited to the race, as new teams create a squeeze for the spots in 2010.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme has floated the possibility that up to six wild card teams could be invited to the 2010 Tour de France, an increase of two over this year. Hoogerland today told Cyclingnews that the proposal was good news for his team, Vacansoleil, who are likely to face stiff competition for the wild cards spots from teams new to the peloton.
"It's good for us of course because there's new, good teams like Sky and BMC in contention and it will be difficult [to get an invitation]," said Hoogerland. "If the Tour does issue more wild cards it will be much better for us."
The concept of more wild card invitations for the Tour could be a necessary response to the changing shape of the peloton in 2010. With French teams Bbox Bougyues Telecom and Cofidis moving out of the ProTour for next season and a number of new teams, including Sky, BMC and RadioShack set to enter the peloton, there will be a squeeze for representation at major races.
"Cadel Evans is now riding for BMC and Team Sky is going to be a huge team next year. They're two very good teams, RadioShack too," said Hoogerland. "They're still the same riders, just more teams."
On paper, the team would appear to have done enough to grab the attention of Prudhomme's organisation. They finished the 2009 season 21st on the International Cycling Union's (UCI) team world rankings. The result placed them on terms with a number of ProTour squads, and ahead of fellow Dutch Pro Continental squad Skil-Shimano, who were one of the wild card teams invited to the 2009 Tour de France.
Vacansoleil's final UCI ranking was, in part, provided by a strong performance at this year's Vuelta a España. The team justified their wild card invitation to the Spanish with a stage win to Borut Bozic and Hoogerland's twelfth place overall. The results also showed that they could perform at the Grand Tour level.
Hoogerland admits that Vacansoleil's results this season have been enough to give the team hope of a start at next year's Tour, and although he has allowed thoughts of a start in France to bubble to the surface, his schedule for July 2010 will remain vacant until he knows for sure.
"The team think the chances of us getting in invited to the Tour are good, but nothing is certain, so at this stage I'm not planning [my season] for the Tour de France," he said.
"The last two months have given me a lot of confidence. I'm focussing on the climbing Classics in April. The Giro d'Italia will come within twenty kilometres of my house. I hope to do the Giro; it would be beautiful to have done [this year's] Vuelta, then the Giro and then the Tour de France."
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