Tour de France wildcards: Sorry Africa.
Cheers in Rennes, France and boos in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Cofidis, IAM Cycling, NetApp-Endura all received the happy news that the Tour de France, the Grand Shindig of Pro Cycling, wants to see them in bright lycra in Yorkshire, England on July 5th.
No big surprises there, mes amis.
The only point of controversy was the final wildcard selection of Bretagne-Séché at the expense of Africa’s MTN-Qhubeka.
In terms of story and mission, MTN-Qhubeka dominates the little Breton squad. Douglas Ryder’s team is bringing free bikes to Africa, creating prosperity and jobs and self-respect while building the future of African cycling. It’s a beautiful marriage of sports and philanthropy and the kind of feel-awesome narrative pro- cycling could use more of these days.
Meanwhile Bretagne-Séché is sponsored by a waste treatment company and won exactly four small races that nobody outside France can recall. We’re all for recycling and thoughtful handling of human waste but really, is this the right call?
You factor in that MTN-Qhubeka’s German sprinter Gerald Ciolek winning last year’s Milan-San Remo and you start to scratch holes in your head. They even added Willem Defoe look-alike Linus Gerdemann who wore the yellow jersey at the 2007 Tour de France.
Linus ain’t done jack merde on a bike since (and sat out last year after failing to get a new contract with RadioShack) but he still has fabulous hair and boy-band good looks.
However, the fellas at ASO decided four French teams in Le Tour was simply not enough. Besides WorldTour equipes Ag2r La Mondiale, Europcar and FDJ.fr, perennial underachievers Cofidis and now Bretagne-Séché make the big show. That is a lot of runny camembert on the wooden cutting board.
We suspect that MTN-Qhubeka finds itself in the same position as IAM Cycling last year. Close but not quite there. While promoting French cycling, ASO clearly feels that the African squad still needs another year to prove itself. Throw out that Milan-San Remo win and really, the results (and the roster) weren’t quite there.
And hey, things could have been worse all around. The French could have seconded the Giro d’Italia with the baffling selection of Yellow Fluo. Christian Prudhomme is way smarter than that.