Barloworld on the wildcard hunt
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Monday, February 16, 2009

Barloworld on the wildcard hunt

by Steve Jones at 10:38 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
For many of the teams the first part of the season can be used as preparation for the big monuments in the sport. You have the Tour Down Under, Etoile de Besseges, the Tour of the Mediterranean, and smaller 1-day races like the GP degli Etruschi opening the season in Italy.

When you're not a ProTour Team, these early races are the barometer for organizers to see how your team might perform if invited to their races. While the past has shown that doing well in the early season doesn't secure you an invite, it can certainly help teams get their foot in the door.

One such team struggling to gain a wildcard is Team Barloworld managed by former professional cyclist Claudio Corti. Fresh off of their training camp the team has already begun to raise eyebrows. "Not even the theft of the bikes during the training camp in Tuscany dented our moral and that was a very encouraging sign," Corti points out. "Right from the start of the training camp everyone was motivated and determined to do well."

Team Barloworld has an impressive mix of riders that have the potential to win in any race situation. South African sprint ace Robbie Hunter showed his good condition throughout the past week of racing. First by landing on the podium at the GP degli Etruschi, a race won by Alessandro Petacchi, and then by taking two second places and finally the team's first win of the season in stage four at the Tour of the Mediterranean.

Perhaps the most important result for Barloworld was the performance on Sunday by Mauricio Soler and Chris Froome. The duo finished second and third at the summit finish of Mont Faron to Frenchman David Moncoutie in the final stage of the Tour of the Mediterranean. Soler, winner of the King of the Mountains competition in the 2007 Tour de France, withdrew early from last year's Tour due to injury. The fact that he is riding well along with Froome for support could be a factor for Grand Tour organizers.

"We’re still hungry for success but we’re obviously very satisfied with our start to the season," Corti said. "Our results confirm that this team deserves to take part in all the major international races on the calendar, both stage races and one-day classics. We know that the organisers are impressed by our results and so we’re optimistic that they will consider us for their races. One thing that makes me especially happy is our decision to give our talented young riders the possibility to show what they can do. We’ve proved it was the right decision. Mauricio Soler’s return to form is also very pleasing; when he’s going well he can rival anyone in the mountains."

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