Skil-Shimano hopes that it will be considered for place in Tour and Vuelta
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Skil-Shimano hopes that it will be considered for place in Tour and Vuelta

by Conal Andrews at 8:06 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Team wants to fill Vacansoleil’s Tour slot if team is dropped

Marcel KittelEmphasising its tactic of carefully developing riders rather than simply buying up big names to secure UCI ProTeam status, the Dutch Skil-Shimano team has said that it hopes to ride the Vuelta a España and, if possible, the Tour de France.

Manager Iwan Spekenbrink talked about the issue, referring to the recent turmoil within the Vacansoleil team, which has fired Riccardo Riccò in connection with the reported botched blood transfusion which landed him in hospital. That Dutch squad recently announced that another rider under investigation, Vuelta runner-up Ezequiel Mosquera, would not be entered into races until his situation was resolved.

“In principle, presence on the Tour is not possible. But so many crazy things have happened that we want to be the first option of the organisers,” he told De Telegraaf.

Vacansoleil secured UCI ProTeam status last year after buying up big riders such as Riccò and Mosquera, although it subsequently requested the UCI not to use the latter’s points in calculating the status of the team. Squads which were in the top 15 of the UCI’s points-based hierarch of teams were given ProTeam licences, while three of those ranked between 16 and 20 were also successful.

Vacansoleil was ranked 12th in this list. The UCI has not published its method of calculating the hierarchy, causing considerable uncertainty in the sport. The return to a points-based system is also something which has been criticized, as in the past riders such as David Millar have claimed that this puts an undue pressure on riders to break rules to achieve the best possible results and thus increase their market value and career opportunities.

Skil Shimano was ranked 24th, moving up to 23rd after Pegasus Sports collapsed. Spekenbrink emphasised that he believed that his team has done things in a better way.

“Vacansoleil has successfully adapted to the policy of the UCI. They look especially for riders with points. That way they placed themselves amongst the World Tour teams. Their goal is the Grand Tours.

“We don’t adjust our philosophy to a change in the UCI system. We want to give talented riders a chance to grow in our team. We prefer to invest in a responsible progression than the points of a rider. One of the best examples is perhaps Roger Kluge. We followed him for some time as he is a good sprinter. But Kluge was out of the running last year due to a broken collarbone. He wasn’t interesting for other teams because he had few points.”

Skil-Shimano gave the-then Milram rider a contract, though, and he has already rewarded that with a number of promising placings. He was third on the first stage of the Tour of Oman, and clocked up three top-six placings in the Tour of Qatar plus 17th overall. Another rider, Marcel Kittel (pictured), won a stage in the Tour de Langkawi.

Spekenbrink said that its recruitment policy has been noted. “In discussions with the top people in ASO, they said that they appreciate our philosophy,” he said.

Wildcard aims:

While Skil-Shimano’s ranking of 23rd means that several other teams ahead of it, each of the wildcard teams higher in the ranking have been granted a place in the Tour. The one exception is Geox-TMC, which was told by ASO that it would not be considered. If Vacansoleil is ultimately uninvited – and that is by no means certain – then the team might well be in the running.

However, Tour aside, the Tour of Spain is very much a target. In fact, the team regards it as a necessity. “It would be a great disappointment if the Vuelta didn’t give us a wildcard. For our development, we need that race. We won’t only miss the exposure for our sponsors, but it would also be a missed opportunity for our riders. I continue to have confidence that our policies will be rewarded.”

Meanwhile the Vacansoleilteam has announced that it has decided to end the contract given to Flavio Mongiardo ‘The Italian soigneur Mongiardo came with Riccò at the end of 2010 to the team,” it explained in a release. “The programme of the soigneur and Riccò were synchronous. He worked in principle only for Riccò. The team, in consultation with the soigneur, decided to terminate cooperation by March 31.”


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