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.