After 10 victories, 43 podium places and second place in the UCI Europe Tour overall standings this season, the Belgian Wanty-Groupe Gobert team, which joined the Professional Continental ranks in 2011 as Veranda's Willems-Accent, is seeking a wildcard invitation to a Grand Tour in 2015.
“We have signed strong riders for next season including three new Italians,” manager Jean-François Bourlart said in a statement released by the team.
“With  Amstel Gold Race winner Enrico Gasparotto and Marco Marcato [winner of 2012 Paris-Tours], we have strengthened the Italian part of our team significantly. We would therefore like to receive a wildcard for the Giro d’Italia and other races by RCS like Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche, Tirreno Adriatico and Il Lombardia.”
Aside from the new Italian riders, Wanty-Groupe Gobert also features Italian sponsors such as Northwave, GSG, Fulcrum, San Marco and FSA.
“The link with the Giro d’Italia can therefore easily be explained,” Bourlart said. “But we will also apply for a wildcard for the Tour de France and Vuelta. Traditionally our team is strong in the Classics and one-day races but we now also have riders who are capable to ride Grand Tours.”
Wanty-Groupe Gobert 2015 riders Björn Leukemans, Frederik Veuchelen, Yannick Eijssen and Francis De Greef have competed in several Grand Tours, as have Italians Gasparotto, Marcato, Mirko Selvaggi and Danilo Napolitano. De Greef has finished 11 Grand Tours.
“If you also take into account guys like sprinter Roy Jans, Jérôme Baugnies and young talents like Frederik Backaert and Marco Minnaard, we have a team ready to ride a Grand Tour in 2015,” Bourlart said. “I am sure that Wanty-Groupe Gobert is ready for this next step in its development.”
Earlier this year, Marcato, who rode with Vacansoleil for five years before joining Cannondale in 2014, was named in a list published by Gazzetta dello Sport of 38 alleged clients of banned trainer Michele Ferrari. The 30-year-old rider strongly denied having had any sort of connection with Ferrari.
“I never knew this man,” he said. “I have never met him and I have never talked with him. I want to defend my image, which is strongly affected by this article. I am available to the authorities to answer all the questions and to prove my innocence in this matter.”