German team to race first Grand Tour, but Garzelli and Di Luca miss out as Acqua & Sapone fails to get place

RCS Sport, organisers of the Giro d’Italia, has confirmed the identities of the four teams that will receive wild card entries for this May’s Giro d’Italia – a race that will now see the Grand Tour debut of German UCI Professional Continental outfit Team NetApp, a decision that left its manager “speechless.”

A trio of Italy-based Professional Continental teams – Androni Giocattoli, Farnese Vini, which now has Filippo Pozzato in its line-up, and Colnago CSF – have also been invited, and will join the 18 UCI ProTour teams already guaranteed places in the year’s first Grand Tour.

Team NetApp was established ahead of the 2010 season following what had been a difficult few years for cycling in Germany following a succession of doping cases involving high profile riders.

Today, team manager Ralph Denk said: “I was a bit speechless when I got the news. Although we presented ourselves in a confident way when applying, we also knew that we stood only an outside chance. Now it feels like the first season win. It’s a great confirmation for us.

“Our thanks go out to RCS as the organizer of the Giro d’Italia,” he continued. “I’d like to thank them for the decision itself and for the implied confidence in our young team.

“The Giro will give us an opportunity to prove ourselves. I’d like to emphasize the courage it took RCS to venture down a new path in terms of awarding the wildcard,” he concluded.

Last week, race director Michele Acquarone, in his first year in the post after the departure of previous incumbent Angelo Zomegnan,  said on Twitter that 12 teams had applied for the four wild card places on offer.

In keeping with the race’s use of social media to get fans involved – Twitter and Facebook users have helped design this year’s maglia rosa as well as the route of one of the mountain stages – the Giro d’Italia asked which teams they thought deserved wild cards, with the final decision being made today by a five-man committee.

Missing from the list of teams confirmed today is one Italian squad that took part in last year’s, Acqua & Sapone, which in Stefano Garzelli, victor of the 2000 edition of the race, boasts a former Giro winner, as well as Danilo Di Luca, stripped of his second place overall in 2009 after testing positive for CERA.

The 22-team line-up for the race, which gets under way in Denmark on 5 May, is one less than in last year’s edition, which saw 23 teams take to the start in Turin as the race celebrated Italy’s 150th birthday.

In all, 14 teams applied for wild card entry to the various WorldTour races organised by RCS Sport, which besides the Giro d’Italia include Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia.

The four wild card places for Tirreno-Adriatico – increased from the original two for the race, which runs from 7-13 March – have gone to Acqua & Sapone, Colombia Coldeportes, Conalgo-CSF Inox e Farnese Vini.

Meanwhile seven teams have been named for Milan-San Remo on 17 March, comprising Acqua & Sapone, Colombia Coldeportes, Colnago-CSF Inox, Farnese Vini, Project 1T4I, Team Type 1-Sanofi and Utensilnord Named.

Seven wild card spots have also been awarded for Il Lombardia in September, namely Acqua & Sapone, Androni Giocattoli, Colombia Coldeportes, Colnago-Csf, Farnese, Project 1T4I and Utensilnord Named.

Of the 14 teams applying for wild card places across all the events, two did not seek a place in the Giro d’Italia.

The identity of one of that pair was revealed by Acquarone last week, who tweeted that Europcar was not seeking a place in the Grand Tour and had instead sought entry to Milan-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico.

Today’s decision means that it has missed out on both those races.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.