By Gregor Brown
Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport asked fans today for their favourite wildcard teams to race the 2014 edition. Via Twitter, it listed eight second division teams for the three available spots.
"3 spots for 8 teams," it wrote. "Which team should receive the wildcard for Giro d'Italia 2014? And why?"
Its accompanying image showed eight team jerseys and names: Bardiani CSF, Caja Rural, Colombia, IAM Cycling, MTN-Qhubeka, United Healthcare, Wanty and Yellow Fluo-Neri Sottoli. On November 27, it asked fans the same question but with one difference, instead of Yellow Fluo it listed NetApp-Endura.
Yesterday, Germany's NetApp team said it will try to race the Tour de France this year. It added it is setting "ever higher targets" after racing the Giro in 2012 and the Vuelta a España last year.
Yellow Fluo raced the Giro d'Italia last year as Vini Fantini-Selle Italia. Two of its riders, Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio tested positive for EPO in tests linked to the race. RCS Sport appears to be giving the Italian team a second chance.
@Giroditalia followers replied immediately:
@marcfairclough: Give a spot to @TeamMTNQhubeka and #getAfricatothegiro - cycling needs new heroes!!!
@lacambramanel: @TeamMTNQhubeka because it is a lot more than just a cycling team #GetAfricatotheGiro
@mundociclistico: #Colombia4Giro @Col_Coldeportes 2014 #Wildcard
@MarcellPiazzano: Neri, Bardiani, IAM
Of the eight teams five - Caja Rural, IAM, MTN, United Healthcare and Wanty - have yet to race the Giro. Spain's Caja team signed Luis León Sánchez, winner of four Tour de France stages, from Belkin. IAM features Sylvain Chavanel and Mathias Frank, and wants a Tour invitation as well. MTN, Africa's first pro team, raced Tirreno-Adriatico and won Milan-San Remo last year with Gerald Ciolek.
Last year, the organisers selected Colombia, Vini Fantini and Bardiani. Team Androni earned the first available spot for winning the 2012 Italian Cup classification. It did not win in 2013 but as best ranked second division team it took its place in the 2014 Giro.
The four wildcards will race alongside the 18 first division, WorldTour teams. RCS Sport confirmed to Cycling Weekly that the decision will be made towards the end of the week. At the same time, RCS will name wildcard teams for its other races: Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Lombardy.
Any delay could be due to an investigation. In October, RCS announced suspended and fired employees due to a reported €13m in missing funds. Last month, it hired Paolo Bellino to direct its races. He officially begins work on January 14.
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