Following the breakdown in negotiations between the three leading race organisers and the UCI over the future of the ProTour, the organisers have announced that they will invite 18 leading teams to ride their races in 2007 and offer only four wild card places for the Giro d?Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta Espana.
In a statement published in Italian by the Giro d’Italia press office, AG2R Prévoyance, Bouygues Telecom, Caisse d?Epargne-Illes Balears, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, Davitamon-Lotto, Discovery Channel, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Française des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, Lampre-Fondital, Liquigas, Quickstep-Innergetic, Rabobank, Saunier Duval-Prodir, T Mobile Team, Team CSC and Team Milram were all officially invited to ride the 11 races organised by the three organisers. There was no mention of the troubled Astana team.
These events are: Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Fleche-Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Giro d?Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana, Paris-Tours and the Tour of Lombardy.
In what appears to be a clear sign that the three race’s organisers no longer consider their races part of the ProTour, they announced that the 18 teams are not under obligation to ride all the races but must inform the organiser of their intentions before December 31. Wild card invitations for other teams will be announced three months before each event and the number of teams allowed in each race will be reduced from 22 in 2007 to just 20 in 2008.
The organisers reserved the right to refuse the particiaption of a rider or team if their presence could damage the image of the race, but did not go into detail about riders involved in police investigations. It seems that Ivan Basso and other riders implicated in Operacion Puerto will be allowed to ride both the Giro d?Italia and the Tour de France in 2007.
The race organisers anounced plans for a more detailed selection procedure for 2008 onwards, with only 16 teams qualifying for invitations based on the results achieved in the two previous seasons. Full details of the selection criteria will be announced on March 1 after talks with the teams and riders.
There was no initial reaction to the announcement but further details are expected on Wednesday when the route of the 2007 Vuelta Espana is unveiled in Madrid.