French teams take all four Tour de France wildcards. Let le debate begin.

French Tour wildcards. Are you shocked?

The explanation is in the name: it is called the Tour de FRANCE, after all.

The decision by the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) to award all four wildcards to French teams shouldn’t be a big shock but it’s a surprise anyway. It’s a French affair this year and there is joy in the streets of Paris. Free baguettes all around.

Cofidis, Saur – Sojasun, Francaise des Jeux and Europcar join AG2R and the other 17 automatic ProTeam invites at La Grande Boucle. The big loser is already disgruntled footwear sponsor Geox, the team of former winner Carlos “chronic fatigue” Sastre and last year’s third place finisher Denis Menchov. Are they ready to walk yet?

ASO selected the wildcards over two months early this year and that should have been clue #1. They did away with the early season “prove yourself” period where borderline teams raced hard in hopes of sneaking in. It also ruined the possibility of bitter arguments from some furious Italian or Spanish DS counting his wins and then watching an underachieving French team make the cut.

Once sporting criteria was no longer part of the decision-making process, the only deciding factor was nationality. The wild card requests were sorted into two piles: French and non-French and guess which one went to the paper shredder?

Imagine the complicated procedure: a few thoughtful French guys in scarves engaged in conversation: “Are zay French or are zay not French?” Simple as that. It’s my race and I’ll oust if I want to.

Early this week, FDJ’s Marc Madiot implored French riders throughout the country to “show some pride.” Let’s hope the boys at Saur – Sojasun are up to the task. Last years’ Tour was a good one for France but Cofidis did squat — no stage wins, lackluster fan support, minimal road chalk.

Perhaps climber David Moncoutie’s return to the tour after years away will spark the team. If not, Carlos Sastre will be double bitter — he’s a quiet guy but the one issue that gets him worked up is lack of respect. He and Denis will be issuing statements of incomprehension shortly.

The Tour de France reaffirmed today that it’s a French event. C’est bon.

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  • beev

    I could make all sorts of parallels with other events/sports, but it strikes me that the French underperformance in their own premier event could be down to the fact that the criteria for entry as a Frenchman is so much easier than for other nationalities. I wonder if ASO could be challenged in the European courts on the grounds blatant xenophobia (a polite term for what is actually happening here)…

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Beev, it's like restaurants: no shoes, no shirt, no French passport, no service. It's their party. Matt

  • Ron

    Stop your crying….how many foreign teams play in the Super Bowl, or the WORLD Series?

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      I was really hoping the Paris Panthers would get an invite to the Superbowl but no such luck. Same goes for the Bordeaux Red Sock who were unable to secure a World Series spot. C'est la view. Matt

  • RideLikeaGirl1

    I am surprised that Geox received a snub given that Menchov placed on the podium in 2010 and Contador is unlikely to ride. But who knows, maybe one of the teams currently invited will encounter a major doping scandal and be kicked-out of the tour before it even begins.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      The best reasoning I've read is from old John Wilcockson who said the Tour people finally got back at Mauro Gianetti for when his team was called Saunier Duval and Riccardo Ricco and company embarrassed the tour with their CERA EPO positives. The Tour was kinda forced to welcome the next incarnation — Futon-Servetto because of a pre-existing three year contract but that's over and they wanted to send a message and even the score. They did the same with Astana when Vino was nabbed.