Team Sky has been handed a wildcard place in the Tour de France by the organiser ASO.
Bradley Wiggins is set to lead the British team when the race starts in Rotterdam on July 3, and he will be hoping to improve on last year’s fourth place.
Lance Armstrong’s Radioshack and world champion Cadel Evans’s BMC Racing have also secured invitations.
Garmin-Transitions have also been invited, which makes four American-run squads will take part – HTC-Columbia is the other. The final wild cards went to Cervélo, who have last year’s green jersey winner Thor Hushovd in their ranks, and Russian squad Katusha.
It meant there was disappointment for three teams who have tried to make a big impression this season. Two Dutch squads, Skil-Shimano and Vacansoleil, hoped the fact the race starts in the Netherlands might earn them a place. Skil-Shimano will be particularly disappointed as they rode last year. French minnows Saur-Sojasun were not expected to get a place, particularly as four French teams were covered by the ProTour agreement.
After months of speculation, ASO has honoured the agreement made 18 months ago to invite all the ProTour teams to the race. That means there is a place for French squad Cofidis, who were part of the ProTour when the agreement was made but who dropped to Pro Continental status this season.
Cofidis has impressed during the early weeks of the season, with Samuel Dumoulin winning a stage at the Tour of Catalonia and their young Estonian finishing third overall. BBOX Bouygues Telecom also gained a place thanks to their former status as a ProTour squad.
The agreement also means there is a place for Footon-Servetto, the Spanish team that rose from the ashes of the disgraced Saunier Duval. Riccardo Ricco tested positive during the 2008 Tour while riding for Saunier Duval. Footon is a team that is lacking stars and is, so far, devoid of results at the top level.
All the other major teams – defending champion Alberto Contador’s Astana squad and Andy Schleck’s Saxo Bank – were also included.
ASO were always going to invite Team Sky, not just because of Wiggins’s fourth place last year and a strong, if not super-powerful roster, but because of the sponsor’s profile and ability to expose the Tour de France to a bigger audience in the UK.
THE 22 TOUR DE FRANCE TEAMS AND THEIR KEY RIDERS
16 teams covered by the ProTour agreement
AG2R-La Mondiale (France) Efimkin, Roche, Valjavec
Astana (Kazakhstan) Contador, Vinokourov
BBOX Bouygues Telecom (France) Fedrigo, Voeckler
Caisse d’Epargne (Spain) LL Sanchez, Moreau
Cofidis (France) Dumoulin, Moncoutie, Moinard, Taaramae
Euskaltel-Euskadi (Spain) S Sanchez
Française des Jeux (France) Casar, Di Gregorio, Le Mevel
Footon-Servetto (Spain) Cardoso
HTC-Columbia (USA) Cavendish, Rogers
Lampre (Italy) Cunego, Petacchi
Liquigas (Italy) Basso, Nibali, Kreuziger, Bennati
Milram (Germany) Gerdemann, Ciolek
Omega Pharma-Lotto (Belgium) Gilbert
Quick Step (Belgium) Boonen, Chavanel
Rabobank (Netherlands) Menchov, Gesink, Freire
Saxo Bank (Denmark) A Schleck, F Schleck, Cancellara
Six teams handed wildcard places
Radioshack (USA) Armstrong, Leipheimer, Kloden, Brajkovic
Team Sky (Great Britain) Wiggins, Lofkvist, Gerrans, Boasson Hagen
Katusha (Russia) Pozzato, Kirchen, McEwen, Karpets, Rodriguez
Garmin-Transitions (USA) Farrar, Vande Velde, Millar, Martin
Cervélo (Switzerland) Hushovd, Sastre
BMC Racing (USA) Evans, Hincapie
Tour de France 2010: Related links
CW’s analysis of the 2010 Tour de France route
Tour de France 2010: Wildcard watch
2010 Tour de France route revealed
Tour de France 2010 presentation photo gallery by Graham Watson