- Posted by Gregor Brown
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Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport is this month considering which wildcard teams to invite, taking into account new anti-doping rules that may work in favour of the Brits. By early January, it will decide which three second division teams will line up with the 18 first division teams on May 4 in Naples, and NetApp-Endura could be one of them.
"The applications need to arrive before Christmas and right after [January 8], we will name the three other teams," race director, Michele Acquarone told website Tuttobici. "What we want to do is give the teams a chance to plan their seasons in the best possible."
RCS Sport has a lot to consider, though. It needs to make its home teams happy, expand its global audience and follow new a new race organiser rule put in place on Friday.
The Giro d'Italia typically filled its remaining places, the wildcards, with home teams like Acqua & Sapone, Androni Giocattoli, Ceramica Flaminia, LPR... Some years it reached out to its neighbours. This year, Acquarone's first year as director, German team NetApp got the nod. It achieved only a couple of runner-up spots in stages with Jan Barta and Bartosz Huzarski, and left critics shaking their heads.
"You need to keep in mind that I'm always speaking of 'global attention,'" Acquarone said, defending his decision. "I'm interested in fans from all over the world."
Androni is on the only Italian second division team assured to race when the Giro kicks off in Naples. Thanks to winning the season-long Coppa Italia series, RCS Sport awarded it one of the four wildcard spots. It will decide the other three teams over the coming weeks, but will have to follow a new rule.
The Association of Race Organisers (AIOCC) met in Paris on Friday, when all 80 members, including RCS Sport, agreed to a new rule. They agreed to give priority to teams belonging to the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) when issuing its invitations. The rule will not concern the 18 first division teams wanting to race the Giro d'Italia as they automatically receive invitations to all WorldTour races. However, it will encourage the second division teams to join the MPCC.
The MPCC uses stricter anti-doping rules for its member teams than those of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). The rules extend doping bans by two years, tighten the grip corticosteroid use and force stronger internal controls for teams. So far, the movement has accepted nine second division teams: Argos-Shimano, Bardiani-CSF, Bretagne-Schuller, Cofidis, Colombia-Coldeportes, Europcar, IAM Cycling, NetApp-Endura and Saur-Sojasun. Accent Jobs, Landbouwkrediet (Crelan-Euphony) and Team Type 1 have requested to join.
Colombia-Coldeportes is said to be on top of RCS Sport's list to receive a Giro wildcard invitation. Bardiani-CSF, an Italian team, may have a chance to race, as well. That leaves RCS Sport to decide from French, Swiss, German and American teams for its remaining spot, and leaves out Italian Vini Fantini with riders Oscar Gatto, Mauro Santambrogio and Francesco Chicchi.
The French teams, however, will likely spend their energy on the Tour de France while Argos will receive an automatic Giro invitation if it is promoted to the first division as expected. It leaves the door open for NetApp to race again.
RCS Sport may give NetApp-Endura the nod and create more British interest in addition to what will come with Sky and Bradley Wiggins. NetApp teamed with Endura this winter and took on four Brits: Russell Downing, Jon McEvoy, Erick Rowsell and Scott Thwaites.
"I'm not guaranteeing anything to the Italians and to their sponsors," Acquarone added. "They know what I think."
Acquarone and his RCS Sport team will also think about their other races. Along with the Giro, it will issue invitations for Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and Tour of Lombardy in early January.