Russian and Polish teams named as wildcards for Giro d'Italia

Russia's Gazprom-RusVelo and Poland's CCC Sprandi Polkowice edge out two Italian contenders

Polskat CCC on stage one of the 2015 Giro d'Italia
(Image credit: Watson)

Race organiser RCS Sport has looked abroad for its 2017 Giro d'Italia wildcard teams, naming Russia's Gazprom-RusVelo and Poland's CCC Sprandi Polkowice.

This May sees the 100th edition of the Italian Grand Tour, welcoming all 18 WorldTour teams and four wildcard teams from the professional continental ranks. RCS Sport selected home teams Bardiani CSF and Wilier Triestina to round out the wildcards.

The Giro starts in Sardinia on May 5. It skips over to Sicily and and then to the mainland, travelling from the south to the mountains in the north.

Team Sky's Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) are among the favourites.

>>> The Giro d'Italia 2017 start list is shaping up to be the strongest in years

Italian teams Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec and Nippo-Vini Fantini will not be among those in Sardinia. Out of the four Italian teams that make up the professional continental division, RCS Sport overlooked them in favour of a youthful Bardiani CSF squad and Wilier Triestina with Filippo Pozzato in their roster and a big sponsorship link to the race.

Cycling Director Mauro Vegni overlooked Androni last year in favour of Gazprom, saying that being Italian team was not enough in itself to earn selection. Gazprom repaid its selection with a stage win when Alexander Foliforov edged out then race leader Steven Kruijswijk by 0.16 seconds in the mountain time trial up Alpe di Siusi.

>>> Geraint Thomas embarks on 'exciting and scary' season heading into the Giro d'Italia assault

CCC has already participated in Italy's biggest race before in 2003 and 2015, and RCS Sport is reportedly building relations with Poland.

"The details are in place," Vegni told Cycling Weekly, "and soon we will announce the host for the 2018 Giro."

Poland is in pole position and reportedly has already received the "Sì" from Vegni to host the start of the 2018 race. It would be the first time the Grande Partenza would have been held in Poland with the race last going abroad in 2016 with the start in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.

Watch: Giro d'Italia essential guide

"It's a big honour for us that we got invited to the 100th edition of this legendary race," said CCC Sprandi Polkowice Sports Director Piotr Wadecki.

"The organisers have recognized our team on few other occasions in the past, granting us a wildcard invitations to some other big races. We are extremely happy that we didn't disappoint and that RCS Sport wants to see our orange colours in their races again and again."

RCS Sport's decision could be the death penalty for the Italian teams sitting at home. Androni, after racing for eight consecutive years, missed selection the last two years. Nippo built a team for the Giro with 2004 winner Damiano Cunego, stage winners Julian Arredondo and Marco Canola, and former national champion Ivan Santaromita.

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"Our professional movement really is likely to suffer a further blow, which could be almost lethal," Tutto Bici editor Pier Augusto Stagi wrote in a recent article.

"We only have four teams in the second division, and if one stays at home, it will almost certainly fold."

For the first time the sport's modern era, Italy lacks a team in the top division. After 20-plus years, Lampre stepped aside and with Ben Swift, the Giuseppe Saronni’s team took out its licence in the U.A.E. with a new local sponsor.

The organiser also named the wildcard teams for its other upcoming WorldTour races.

Strade Bianche, March 4 – three wild cards (21 teams)

Androni Giocattoli (Ita)

Bardiani CSF (Ita)

Nippo - Vini Fantini (Ita)

Tirreno-Adriatico, March 8-14 – four wild cards (22 teams)

Androni Giocattoli (Ita)

Bardiani CSF (Ita)

Nippo - Vini Fantini (Ita)

Team Novo Nordisk (USA)

Milan-San Remo, March 18 – seven wild cards (25 teams)

Androni Giocattoli (Ita)

Bardiani CSF (Ita)

Cofidis, Solutions Credits (Fra)

Gazprom - RusVelo (Rus)

Nippo - Vini Fantini (Ita)

Team Novo Nordisk (USA)

Wilier Triestina (Ita)

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.