2010 Tour de France: Dutch teams miss out on start
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 Tour de France: Dutch teams miss out on start

by VeloNation Press at 4:01 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 

The Grand Départ of the 97th edition of the Tour de France is set for July 3rd in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, but despite its location, there will be one less Dutch team present than the previous year.  In 2009 Rabobank, the only Dutch ProTour team, and the Pro Continental Skil-Shimano squad both participated in the event.

Rabobank was guaranteed a spot this year as one of the sixteen teams listed in a September 2008 agreement between race organizers, the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO), and the International Cycling Union (UCI).  The two other Dutch teams in the running for wildcard spots, Skil-Shimano and Vacansoleil, were overlooked due to an extremely competitive list of teams in the running for the final slots.

Due to the high-level of competition for wildcard positions this year, the race organizers decided  to increased the amount of teams that will participate in the event from twenty to twenty-two.  This still meant that there wasn't enough room for French Pro Continental outfit Saur-Sojasun, which has also caused a bit of controversy.

The birth of Lance Armstrong's RadioShack squad and the new British Team Sky were part of the reason for the abundance of talent in this year's selection.  Another factor was the emergence of the BMC Racing team, who bolstered its line-up over the winter with current and former World Champions Cadel Evans and Alessandro Ballan, Dutchman Karsten Kroon, American George Hincapie along with several other strong riders.  The Cervélo TestTeam, who boasts 2008 Tour winner Carlos Sastre and last year's green jersey champion Thor Hushovd, have also continued to perform well.

In last year's Grande Boucle, Skil-Shimano rode aggressively throughout the event but failed to come away with a stage win, while Vacansoleil had a solid first year as a team, putting in a great showing at the Vuelta a Espana by winning a stage with sprinter Borut Bozic, and fielding an animated Johnny Hoogerland who attacked all the way to Madrid.

Both teams were recently skipped over for the Giro d'Italia's start in Amsterdam this year, and then the Walloon classics double of la Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which makes today's news that much more difficult to digest.  Both teams were hoping for a start in the two Grand Tours, and now could possibly miss out on riding in all three.

The biggest surprise of the two is the absence of the Vacansoleil team.  Not only did Wouter Mol win ASO’s Tour of Qatar, but the team also added Frenchmen Brice and Romain Feillu over the winter, both of whom have performed well in the Tour de France. The Feillu brothers are regarded as two of France's emerging talents.

Now it is clear that the team won’t be the Tour or Giro, Vacansoleil manager Daan Luijkx was optimistic: “It is good to know where we are at so we can focus on what’s next. The upcoming weeks we have beautiful classics in which the team will show again what it is worth. Besides doing at least one giant tour we had a 2010 goal which was to finish in the top-3 at a World Calendar classic and a goal to be in front for the whole season, all of our goals are still in reach. In September we might do the Tour of Spain which we showed to be capable of doing well [last year].”

“We shouldn’t forget that in the beginning of 2009 we had the goal to do one giant tour within three years and since that goal we experienced incredible growth.  Besides that we need to be realistic, with the current wildcards system and agreement from the past, spots were rare. It surely wasn’t an easy decision for ASO. The agreement with the teams from 2008 counts till 2010 but ends in 2011. I have great trust in our riders and way of racing. The sponsors, with Vacansoleil and Batavus in front, are really ambitious and will grow together with the team. Besides current sponsors we will keep our eyes and ears open for an extra shirt sponsor which sees the team as great marketing vehicle and gives the team even more scope.”

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