Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has made it clear that no team has a guaranteed invitation to the 2008 Tour de France.
Speaking after the presentation of the 2008 route in Paris, Prudhomme reiterated that race organisers and not the Union Cycliste International (UCI) will decide the 20 teams that will line-up in Brest on July 5.
One of the chief criteria will be the a strict adherence to ethics and a requirement that all the riders have the new biological passport.
At the recent world championships the UCI said the 18 ProTour teams would be automatically invited to the 2008 Tour de France but this was refuted by Prudhomme.
“We?ll talk to the leading teams but no one can be sure yet of being at the start of the Tour. There should be more or less 20 teams,” Prudhomme said.
?All riders wishing to participate should be in possession of the ‘biological passport’ currently being established by the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency.?
Patrice Clerc, president of Amaury Sport Organisation, the organisers of the Tour de France, backed Prudhomme but also offered an olive branch to the UCI after months of bitter arguments.
“No one will tell us who can participate in the Tour de France,” Clerc said. “Cycling is now ahead of any other sport. We can end this crisis if we all sit together around the same table. All the families in cycling must work together. If we manage to do so, we could start the next Tour united again.?
The big question in Paris was whether or not the Astana team would be invited to the 2008 Tour. The Kazakhstan-sponsored team was forced to quit the 2007 race in shame after Alexandre Vinokourov?s positive test for blood doping following his time trial win in Albi.
His team mate Andrey Kashechkin then also failed a blood test a few days after the Tour. Two other Astana riders, Eddy Mazzoleni and Matthias Kessler have also been embroiled in doping issues this year.
The team will be managed by Johan Bruyneel in 2008 and the former Discovery Channel team boss has promised widespread changes. He has already signed Tour winner Alberto Contador and third placed Levi Leipheimer and promised to use the internal anti-doping programme used by CSC for the last year.
Bruyneel has admitted he has his work cut out to convince the sport Astana has changed with his first move bringing in experienced Frenchman Alain Gallopin from CSC. Gallopin was in Paris for the Tour presentation and was hopeful that Astana would get an invitation to the Tour de France.
?The previous year?s winner is usually at the start but in this case it?s not up to me,? Gallopin said.
?We?re interested in making our team credible and after working with Bjarne Riis I?ve been able to see how CSC have a good, if not the best, system of controls and Astana plans to follow the same road.?
?The team will continue with or without a place in the Tour de France. The Tour is our main objective but if we don?t ride we?ll come up with something else.?