France to field two WorldTour teams in 2012

Ag2r, Tour de France 2011, team time trial training

France may jump from one to two first division, WorldTour teams for next season. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) released its "evaluation of sporting criterion" list on Tuesday, which included Ag2r La Mondiale, FDJ and Europcar.

"The International Cycling Union has carried out an evaluation of the sporting value of teams," read the press release, "taking into account the contractual agreements signed for 2012 with the best 15 riders before October 20, 2011."

The three French teams ranked outside the top 15 teams in the UCI evaluation. They will fight with Geox-TMC and Euskaltel-Euskadi for three available WorldTour licences. It will likely only be FDJ and Europcar fighting for one WorldTour spot. Ag2r and Euskaltel already have licences for next year and Geox said last week that it would not continue as a sponsor.

Ag2r La Mondiale with Nicolas Roche was the only French team racing in the WorldTour this year.

In addition to the sporting criterion, the UCI will base its decision on ethics, financial strength and administration. It said that it will reveal the final 18 WorldTour teams on November 20.

Five top teams initially fail to meet UCI's sporting criteria

RadioShack/Leopard names sports directors

Newly merged team, RadioShack-Nissan will feature six sports directors for next season. Writing in his blog, General Manager Johan Bruyneel named three from his RadioShack team and three from Leopard-Trek.

Alain Gallopin, Jose Azevedo and Dirk Demol will continue from RadioShack; and Kim Andersen, Lars Michaelsen and Luca Guercilena from Leopard. The six had their first meeting after the Tour of Lombardy last week in Milan.

Bruyneel excluded Adriano Baffi, Torsten Schmidt (both Leopard) and Viatcheslav Ekimov (RadioShack). Former Leopard general manager, Brian Nygaard will become GreenEdge's press officer.

The two teams announced the merger in the first week of September. Flavio Becca's Leopard team gained RadioShack's and Nissan's sponsorship, General Manager Bruyneel and around 12 RadioShack riders.

It will continue as a Luxembourg-based team with local stars, Fränk and Andy Schleck for the Grand Tours and Fabian Cancellara for the classics. Around 12 Leopard riders will leave for new teams.

Giro to head south in 2013

The Giro d'Italia plans to head further south in 2013 after a year of mostly racing in the north.

"It's not easy to accommodate everyone," operations director, Mauro Vegni told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "This time [2012], the southern regions were penalised, but in 2013 we will take that into consideration."

This year, the Giro d'Italia raced as far south as Mount Etna in Sicily to celebrate Giuseppe Garibaldi and 150 years since Italy's unification.

The race starts in Denmark next year, the furthest north a Grand Tour has ever travelled. Once in Italy, it will only travel as far south as the Campania region before heading back north.

The race may start in Florence, Parma or as far south as Naples in 2013.

Race director, Michele Acquarone explained, "These are three concrete hypotheses."

Garmin-Cervélo signs Haas

Team Garmin-Cervélo will feature neo-pro Nathan Haas in its 2012 roster. Jonathan Vaughters' American team announced last night that it signed the 22-year-old Australian, recent winner of the Sun Tour and Japan Cup.

"Nathan has exceptional talent," said Vaughters in a press release. "At such a young age, he is already is one of those unique riders who figures out a way to win, no matter what style or level of race he is competing in. We think this is just the beginning for him."

Haas beat out-going Garmin rider, Jack Bobridge by 17 seconds to win the Herald Sun Tour. He agreed to a two-year contract shortly after his win.

He said, "Signing with Garmin-Cervélo is a dream come true."

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