Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) named the 20 teams it has selected for this year’s race on Thursday.
The line-up comprises all teams holding a ProTour licence, with the exception of the Kazakh-backed, Luxembourg-based Astana team, ASO said. ASO ruled in February that the Astana team, which includes reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, would be barred from competing in this year’s race as a result of doping scandals over the past two years.
Three teams from the second division of world cycling (Continental Pro) – Agritubel (Fra), Slipstream (USA) and Barloworld (GBr) – also received invitations to compete in the Tour, which this year starts in the Brittany port city of Brest on July 5 and finishes in Paris on July 27.
Each team will comprise nine riders for a total peloton of 180, nine less than in 2007.
“These are, I believe, the best teams in the world,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme told AFP, insisting that there would be no going back on the decision taken on Astana.
ASO made only one change from the recent Paris-Nice line-up, calling up Barloworld in the place of Dutch outfit Skil. Prudhomme described Skil, for whom French climber Clement Lhotellerie was a revelation on the Paris-Nice, as a “team for the future” but lacking in the maturity needed to tackle the Tour.
The Tour director also defended the choice of the three Continental Pro teams: “Barloworld were there last year and won two stages and the king of the mountains jersey.
“As for Agritubel, there is a slight national preference and Christophe Moreau, French champion, has joined the team. Slipstream is an American team whose philosophy (of anti-doping) pleases us.”
Prudhomme reminded all teams however that their invitation to the race will be subject to how they respond to new, far-reaching anti-doping measures.
“Invitations are subject to every team’s acceptance of the ethics which should be the cornerstone of cycling,” said Prudhomme.
The recent staging of Paris-Nice as a French federation event, and not as part of the International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar, prompted fears that ASO would be able to wield unchecked power. That prompted anger at the UCI, with president Pat McQuaid warning that teams and riders had left themselves without any kind of arbitrary protection.
“You would be abandoning the protection afforded by rules of the UCI which are designed to give teams and riders rights and not simply protect the interests of organisers,” said McQuaid during the escalation of the UCI’s conflict with ASO, organisers of both Paris-Nice and the Tour de France.
Prudhomme said Thursday that in the event teams were involved in any kind of controversy, there would be bilateral discussions before any decisions were made.
“We don’t want to make such decisions on our own. We would sit down and hold talks with the teams and, if a decision has to be taken, it will only be after negotiation.”
Teams: Quick Step (Bel), Silence – Lotto (Bel), Team CSC (Den), Caisse d’Epargne (Spa), Euskatel – Euskadi (Spa), Saunier Duval – Scott (Spa), Bouygues Telecom (Fra), Credit Agricole (Fra), Cofidis Credit Par Telephone (Fra), Francaise Des Jeux (Fra), Ag2R – La Mondiale (Fra), Agritubel (Fra), Gerolsteiner (Ger), Team Milram (Ger), Barloworld (GBr), Lampre (Ita), Liquigas (Ita), Rabobank (Ned), High Road (USA), Slipstream Chipotle (USA)
Note: All teams have ProTour licences apart from Agritubel (Fra), Slipstream (USA) and Barloworld (GBr), which race on the Continental Pro circuit
© AFP 2008