The Vuelta a España has followed the Tour de France in confirming that it will offer just three wildcard invitations to the race in the wake of Katusha’s successful appeal its exclusion from the UCI WorldTour, but Giro d’Italia director Michele Acquarone has criticised the UCI’s failure to communicate directly with race organisers on the matter.
Katusha was reinstated to the WorldTour last week after appealing the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and on Monday, the UCI announced that the WorldTour would thus contain 19 teams in 2013 rather than the usual 18.
Speaking to Biciciclismo, Vuelta director Javier Guillen said as that his race would feature a maximum of 22 teams, only three wildcard invitations will be issued this year, and not four as originally planned.
“I have to say that we would like to have four wildcards rather than three but our situation is different from the Giro or Paris-Nice, who have already announced their invitations,” Guillen said. “However, for economic and logistical reasons I’m inclined to have a Vuelta with a maximum of 22 teams, so we’re now looking at giving out three invitations rather than four.”
Guillen expressed his desire that this will prove to be an “exceptional measure” and that from next year, the WorldTour will return to just 18 teams. “The Vuelta was comfortable with the system of 18 teams plus four wildcards,” he said. “Obviously, we’d prefer six wildcards rather than four, but that was the system accepted by all.”
The current situation poses a greater difficulty for Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport, who announce the wildcard invitations for all of their races before the season begins in order to give teams the chance to arrange their race programmes accordingly.
In January, RCS overlooked Katusha – then outside the WorldTour – when it handed out its four wildcard berths for the Giro d’Italia. It now seems as though RCS will be forced to carry 23 teams at the Giro, although race director Michele Acquarone lamented that the UCI has not communicated on the matter.
“I sent a message to Pat McQuaid, the UCI president, and I still haven’t had a reply,” Acquarone told Gazzetta dello Sport. “We’re surprised that no-one from the UCI’s management ever took it upon themselves to inform us and to find a solution before that press release on Monday afternoon. It’s unacceptable behaviour. We’re always saying that the sport has to grow and that we have to be more professional. And instead we find ourselves in this situation: the championship has already started, the calendar has been drawn up and now there’s an extra team playing.”
Acquarone explained that the addition of a 23rd team to the Giro at this late stage would pose considerable logistical problems, from booking hotel rooms to simply finding parking space for a 23rd team bus at stage starts and finishes.
“Adding a 23rd team also adds costs of at least €150,000,” Acquarone said. “I would have expected the UCI to talk with us about it first instead of dropping this burden on our shoulders.”
The four wildcards for the 2013 Giro d’Italia are Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, Colombia, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox and Androni-Venezuela. The race gets underway in Naples on May 4.
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