Well, the Tour wild cards are in: France’s Agritubel will be making their first appearance, while Communitat Valencia, formerly Kelme, will be returning for this first time since the Manzano Affair broke. Team CV was also invited to the Vuelta, along with Relax-GAM, while earlier this week, the Giro selected Panaria and Selle Italia, the same two squads they chose last year. It’s sad news for exciting riders like Ryan Cox (search “Giro”), Baden Cooke (search Tours), Igor Astarloa, Murilo Fisher and others; I know cuts have to be made somewhere, but when was the last time Domina Vacanze did anything at the Tour? Or when did Euskatel get a single rider into the final 100k at Roubaix? Should smaller teams have to sit out big races just so ProTour squads can get their 5 million Euros’ worth, when the riders themselves complain the ProTour has too many start dates? No wonder the Grand Tours are sick of being shackled to this pedantic system. Small squads have few chances at top-level exposure, and ride aggressively in big races as a result. They bring excitement, unpredictability and new names to the sport, but they can’t do it if they don’t get to race.
Meanwhile, this Reuters report on the Serrano case I mentioned yesterday, doesn’t mention SI (or off-score, or “Australian formula” score) directly, but speaks only in the vague terms that VeloNews used. So far, only Cyclingnews (scroll to “Serrano”) and I have described it as an SI violtion (ProCycling even calls it a hematocrit issue). At the race Serrano was forced to skip, Alejandro Valverde grabbed his first win in Caisse’s new black kit, but only moved up to second on GC. Over in Belgium, Ag2r led Renaud Dion to his first pro win, as the Frenchman soloed in ahead of FdJ’s so-hot-right-now Belgian, Philippe Gilbert. Eurosport has another Paris-Nice preview, inaugural ToC champ Floyd Landis will be leading Phonak to the Sun, and Tyler Hamilton, Phonak’s former leader, finishes up his interview at Daily Peloton. Also, PezCyclingNews turns four today! If I had to pick any party to have a carbon fiber birthday cake (and to give it an unflinchingly positive review…), it would be theirs. Sure, it doesn’t sound too appetizing, but I bet the titanium candles are a sight to see.