Tour de France announces four wildcards for 2012 race
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Friday, April 06, 2012

Tour de France announces four wildcards for 2012 race

by Ben Atkins at 11:14 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Twenty-two teams on Liège start line; Argos-Shimano gets the nod ahead of Bretagne-Schuller

tour de franceTour de France organiser ASO has announced the names of the twenty-two teams that have been invited to start the 2012 race, which starts in Liège, Belgium on June 30th. As part of the International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour, the eighteen first division ProTeams have automatically been invited, with the final four places going to second division Professional Continental teams at ASO’s discretion.

Unsurprisingly, three of the four places have been awarded to French teams, with Europcar, Cofidis and Saur-Sojasun making the final cut. The first, Europcar, is the team of last year’s heroes Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland, with the former spending ten days in yellow - and ending the race in fourth overall - and the latter taking a rare home win on Alpe d’Huez, and taking home the white young riders’ jersey.

Cofidis has been a fixture at the Tour ever since its inception in 1997 and, while it does not possess a top overall contender, it is the home of several of France’s most promising talents. Saur-Sojasun rode its first Tour in 2011 and, while it did not make the impact it had intended, it too has a number of promising, young, French riders.

With FDJ-BigMat making the leap back up to ProTeam status, the fourth French ProConti team, Bretagne-Schuller, might have held hopes of taking its vacant wildcard slot; but the team, which is run by former pro Stéphane Heulot, will be disappointed once again, as it has been awarded to Dutch team Argos-Shimano.

Despite an some impressive performances at ASO’s early season Critérium International race, the Breton team has apparently not made the necessary progress since rising from third division Continental status at the start of last year.

Argos-Shimano - which was known as Project 1t4i until the beginning of this month - rode the Tour for its one and only time in 2009, in its previous incarnation of Skil-Shimano. Its best finisher on that occasion was Frenchman Thierry Hupond however, in 89th place overall, and it has not been invited back since.

The team has made significant improvements in the years since though, and, with German wunderkind Marcel Kittel - who recently won the prestigious Scheldeprijs - it possesses one of the most exciting sprinting talents in the sport.

With 22 teams of nine riders, the peloton will number 198 as it rolls, one by one, out of the Liège start house.

Teams invited to the 2012 Tour de France

Eighteen ProTeams
AG2R La Mondiale
Astana Pro Team
BMC Racing Team
Euskaltel-Euskadi
FDJ-Big Mat
Garmin-Barracuda
Greenedge Cycling Team
Katusha Team
Lampre-ISD
Liquigas-Cannondale
Lotto Belisol Team
Movistar Team
Omega Pharma-Quick Step
Rabobank Cycling Team
Radioshack-Nissan
Sky Procycling
Team Saxo Bank
Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team

Four Professional Continental “wildcard” teams
Argos-Shimano
Cofidis, le crédit en ligne
Saur-Sojasun
Team Europcar

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