Ireland’s Nicolas Roche admitted he was ‘in shock’ last night after Bikeradar.com informed him that he will not be contesting the Giro d’Italia this year, as race organisers RCS announced his Credit Agricole team, along with several other ProTour teams, have not been invited to the world’s second biggest tour.
Roche, who made his Grand Tour debut in last year’s Giro, and whose father Stephen won the race in 1987, has seen most of his early season plans obliterated by the decision as it looks likely Credit Agricole will also have to sit out other races organised by RCS, including the opening classic Milan-San Remo and the prestigious early season stage race Tirreno-Adriatico.
After an unprintable initial reaction, Roche had time to think about the effect the decision will have on his 2008 season.
“I didn’t know!” he said. “It’s a pity, it’s a big pity. I am very disappointed. For me those races were most of my early season programme. I was due to ride Milan-San-Remo, Tirreno Adriatico and the Giro. I was expecting a lot from these races this season.
These are very big races,” he added. “I feel frustrated now because for the last few months I’ve been planning my season towards the Giro. It’s a shock that we are not invited because the team have always done those races and we even have a few Italians on the team.”
British riders Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins will also miss out as Team High Road were refused entry as well as ProTour teams Astana and Bouyges Telecom. RCS made full use of a new agreement with the UCI that they don’t have to invite all of the 18 ProTour teams. Whilst both Astana and Team High Road (formerly T-Mobile) may have paid the price for having been steeped in doping controversy in the past, current reincarnations of both squads would appear to be doing all they can to change previous conceptions, including sacking riders and management and introducing strict in-house anti-doping programmes.
Last year’s winner Danilo Di Luca will be back with his new LPR Brakes team despite a recent ban for working with an unaccredited doctor. Both Bouyges Telecom and Credit Agricole are also regarded as ‘clean teams’ but as mainly French outfits may have been omitted to make way for some lesser Italian teams to ride their national tour.
Race director Angelo Zomegnan has stated that selection was based on ‘ethics, quality, internationality and long-term relationships with RCS’, but did not specify which team fell foul of which part of the selection process.
“The ProTour was supposed to guarantee invites to these races,” said Roche. “It needed a bit of work, but the system of selection is out of hand now. It feels like cycling is stepping back instead of moving forward.”
After a few minutes reflection though, the young Irishman had managed to turn a positive spin on things. “I suppose now we will have to travel to new races around the world, which will be exciting… I hope!”
Ironically, Roche’s Birmingham born cousin Daniel Martin could now make his Giro debut as his American Slipstream squad have been invited despite being a second tier Professional Continental team.
The full list of teams which have been invited to the Giro, which starts in Palermo on May 10th, are: Ag2r-La Mondiale, Barloworld, Caisse d’Epargne, Cofidis, CSF Group Navigare, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Française des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, Lampre, Liquigas, LPR Brakes, NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte, Quick Step, Rabobank, Saunier Duval-Scott, Silence-Lotto, Slipstream Chipotle – H30, Team CSC, Team Milram and Tinkoff Credit.