Gianni Savio, team manger of Pro Continental outfit Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, has written to UCI president David Lappartient asking the governing body not to cut back wildcard entries to Grand Tours.
In an open letter posted on Basque cycling website Biciclismo, Savio says the team is at risk because they “cannot give current sponsors or potential new investors the chance to specifically aim for one of the wildcard invitations for next year.”
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This is because new UCI rules mean the top two ranked Professional Continental teams (soon to be called UCI Pro Teams) will be given the right, not the obligation, to ride the biggest races. This will mean the four wildcard spots for the Grand Tours will now be reduced to two, making competition for these places even fiercer.
Savio has called this rule change “absolutely devastating” for Pro Conti outfits and that it could mean some teams disappear completely.
He goes on to say part of the worth of Pro Continental teams is that talented young riders use them as a “springboard” into WorldTour teams.
Savio points to three riders his team have discovered who are now successfully riding in some of the biggest WorldTour teams and bright prospects of the future, with Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa now plying their trade at Ineos and Davide Ballerini now riding for Astana. He then picks out Fausto Masnada, Mattia Cattaneo and Andrea Vendrame as three Androni riders who he expects to follow in their steps next.
“Without the authorised protection and the intervention of the UCI, the teams that today excite and enthuse so many fans could disappear, along with the organisers of numerous continental races,” Savio said. “Many deserving young people will not be able to demonstrate their talent to pass to the professionals.”
Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec had a successful Giro d’Italia 2019 campaign after being invited as a wildcard team, with Fausto Masnada winning stage six from a breakaway as well as the combativity prize.
Under the UCI rule change, this will allow strong Pro Continental teams to build strong squads and dominate the division, securing access to the biggest races without having to apply for a WorldTour licence.
Arkéa-Samsic, the Pro Conti outfit of André Greipel, are apparently close to signing Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, in what would be a considerable statement of intent about their future.
However, an injury or loss of form of a Pro Continental team’s superstar rider could spell disaster the following season if they were not to finish in the top two qualifying positions.