Team Aqua Blue Sport, after their Grand Tour debut in the Vuelta a España that included a stage win, are said to be aiming for the 2018 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France next season, say sources close to teams.
For the Giro, the Italian teams are already worried for their wildcard invitations with insiders saying team Bardiani-CSF could be overlooked for Androni and Wilier-Selle Italia.
Team Israel Academy should take the fourth of four wildcard spots on offer with the Giro starting in Jerusalem next May. The WorldTour teams including Team Sky and Sunweb with 2017 winner Tom Dumoulin take the other 18 spots automatically.
A selection by organiser RCS Sport could come as early as December.
“We would be honoured to get an invitation for the Giro d’Italia next year,” a team Aqua Blue Sport spokesperson said.
“We would hope, given our results in our debut season that we would be considered a good addition to the start list. Of course, we respect any decision made by RCS.”
The invitations, leaving out two Italian professional continental teams, would send huge quakes through the cycling heartland.
“It’s a huge thing for our team if we are left out of the Giro d’Italia,” said Bardiani-CSF sports director Roberto Reverberi. “It’s fundamental for an Italian team to race it. It’s like 90 per cent of our programme is based around the Giro.”
Irish team Aqua Blue Sport have a strong case after racing the Vuelta a España in their debut season and winning a stage with Stefan Denifl. The team includes Adam Blythe, Matthew Brammeier and Larry Warbasse.
Sources contacted by Cycling Weekly say that the team are making a big push for both the Giro and Tour in 2018. Their relationship with Tour and Vuelta organisers ASO and Unipublic stands strongly already and is improving with Italian organiser RCS Sport.
RCS Sport would likely invite the growing Israel Cycling Academy team with the race starting in Jerusalem. It is the first time a Grand Tour will begin outside of Europe.
After three stages, it should re-enter Italy via Sicily, travel north through the country and finish in Rome. The organiser will reveal the full route at a presentation in November.
The sections would only leave two free spots for four hungry home teams. Androni, after missing two editions of the race, are nearly a certainty due to their win in the Italian Cup classification. Insiders contacted say that Wilier will return with Bardiani-CSF and Nippo left at home.
“To race the Giro for an Italian team means securing sponsors for the next year and also for the current year. To have more security,” Wilier sports director Luca Scinto said.
“As professional continental team it’s everything for us. Then if you go and win a stage, it’s even better!”
The teams seldom win one of the 21 stages, but animate the race with early attacks prior to the stars taking over. They do sometimes succeed in the unthinkable as with Aqua Blue Sport in the Vuelta a España, or Gazprom in the 2016 Giro.
Bardiani built their reputation as the ‘green team’ not just for its colours but because it is a breeding ground for young Italian talent. Riders like Sonny Colbrelli, who is now with Bahrain-Merida, develop within the team before signing for top WorldTour teams.
However, RCS Sport’s invitation to Bardiani, according to sources, will not arrive due to its two positive doping tests ahead of the 2017 Giro. Niccola Ruffoni and Stefano Pirazzi failed controls for a human growth hormone.
“Clearly we want to race and have it be our principle objective of the season but we’re not going to hide that we are slightly worried given what happened at the start last year,” added Reverberi.
“The organisation should take into consideration the 30 years of our team, and that these things happen very seldom and that our team has nothing to do with it at all. Even in the big teams, it happens. There’s no need to throw away the team given what has happened.”