The American Slipstream today revealed the squad has been offered a wild card place in the Giro d?Italia by the organisers.

The team also looks in good shape for a wild card to the Tour de France and would certainly not turn down the opportunity if given the chance.

But given Jonathan Vaughters? determination not to stretch the rookie team in its first full year in Europe, wouldn?t the prospect of riding two grand tours in a season be stretching resources too far?

Vaughters, the team?s manager, declined to apply for the ProTour licence left vacant by Discovery Channel on the basis that a full programme would place too much strain on the team.

However, when the organisers of the Giro offer a place it?s impossible to say no ? particularly when the race starts with a 28.5-kilometre team time trial in Palermo that looks tailor-made for the Slipstream squad.

But will it be a case of too much, too soon for Slipstream?

Will some of the experienced riders find themselves carrying the load by racing two grand tours as well as a packed programme of other races?

Will some of the younger riders find themselves out of their depths early on?

Here we take a look at the grand tour experience in Slipstream?s ranks.

Only nine of Slipstream?s riders have ever started a Grand Tour. Of them, eight know what it takes to get through a three-week race. The other 16 have had no experience but, should Slipstream also get an invite to the Tour, it?s likely some of them will find out. Some are very short on big race experience of any kind, and there are a few neo-pros in the ranks. If ASO offers a wild card ? which seems likely ? it?s going to be a tough summer.

One thing is for certain, an early invitation to the Giro is a huge endorsement for the team and with Vaughters’ sensible management he will seek to strike a balance so the team creates a splash without burning out its riders.

PICTURE Will young riders like Dan Martin get some early grand tour experience?

MAGNUS BACKSTEDT

Has finished six grand tours but never two in the same season. Won a stage of the Tour in 1998. Early season will be built round Paris-Roubaix so Giro could come too soon. Tour would be a better bet for the Swede.
Grand tour record
1998 Tour ? finished
1999 Tour ? abandoned
2000 Tour ? finished
2003 Giro ? finished
2004 Giro ? abandoned
2004 Tour ? abandoned
2005 Tour ? abandoned
2005 Vuelta ? finished
2006 Tour ? abandoned
2006 Vuelta ? finished
2007 Vuelta ? finished

TOM DANIELSON

The most capable climber in the squad with top ten experience. Sixth and seventh in the Vuelta, but lacks durability. Won a stage of the Vuelta in 2006.
Grand tour record
2005 Giro ? abandoned
2005 Vuelta ? finished 7th
2006 Giro ? abandoned stage 19
2006 Vuelta ? finished 6th

JULIAN DEAN

Lead-out man for Thor Hushovd in recent years, will certainly get a chance to sprint for himself. Seasoned stage racer, and one of the few at Slipstream with experience of finishing two grand tours in a year.
Grand tour record
2004 Tour ? finished
2005 Giro ? abandoned
2005 Vuelta ? abandoned
2006 Tour ? finished
2007 Giro ? finished
2007 Tour ? finished

RYDER HESJEDAL

Started the Giro for Discovery Channel in 2005, and the Vuelta for Phonak the following year but didn’t reach Milan or Madrid.
Grand tour record
2005 Giro ? abandoned
2006 Vuelta ? abandoned

CHRISTOPHE LAURENT

A domestique who rode the 2004 Tour for RAGT-Semences and two years later for Agritubel. Knows how to get round.
Grand tour record
2004 Tour ? finished
2006 Tour ? finished

JON McCARTY

Finished the Giro for Phonak in 2006 before joining Slipstream for last season.
Grand tour record
2006 Giro ? finished

DAVID MILLAR

Experienced and knows what a three-week race means. Has won stages too, before his suspension for doping, but on his comeback has demonstrated that he can finish clean. Completing the Tour and Vuelta within four months of returning to racing after a two-year ban in 2006 was impressive.
Grand tour record
2000 Tour ? finished
2001 Tour ? abandoned
2001 Vuelta ? finished
2002 Tour ? finished
2002 Vuelta ? abandoned
2003 Tour ? finished
2003 Vuelta ? finished
2006 Tour ? finished
2006 Vuelta ? finished
2007 Tour ? finished

CHRISTIAN VANDEVELDE

Part of the US Postal team that first won the Tour with Lance Armstrong in 1999. Forced to abandon two years later. Finished the Tour for Liberty Seguros in 2004 and CSC in 2006 and 2007. Plenty of experience.
Grand tour record
1999 Tour ? finished
2001 Tour ? abandoned
2004 Tour ? finished
2005 Giro ? finished
2006 Tour ? finished
2007 Tour ? finished
2007 Vuelta ? finished

DAVID ZABRISKIE

Has won stages of the Tour, Giro and Vuelta ? only member of the Slipstream squad to have done so. CSC asking him to ride the Giro, Dauphiné Libéré and then the Tour in the space of a couple of months last year was madness though.
Grand tour record
2004 Vuelta ? abandoned
2005 Giro ? finished
2005 Tour ? abandoned
2006 Tour ? finished
2007 Giro ? finished
2007 Tour ? abandoned

NO GRAND TOUR EXPERIENCE

Some of these young riders, many of whom have limited European racing experience, could find themselves thrown in at the deep end this year.

Blake Caldwell, age 23
Steven Cozza, age 22
Jason Donald, age 27
Tim Duggan, age 25
Huub Duyn, age 23
Lucas Euser, age 24
Tyler Farrar, age 23
Mike Friedman, age 25
Will Frischkorn, age 26
Trent Lowe, age 23
Martyn Maaskant, age 24
Dan Martin, age 21
Danny Pate, age 28
Kilian Patour, age 25
Tom Peterson, age 21
Chris Sutton, age 23

RELATED LINKS
The Big Interview: Jonathan Vaughters
Slipstream 2008 team launch

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