Invites also for Andalucia Caja Granada, Cofidis and Skil-Shimano

Unipublic, organisers of the Vuelta a Espana, have confirmed that two-time winner Denis Menchov’s Geox-TMC team, which also includes former Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre in its roster, is one of four outfits to have received a wild card entry to this year’s race. The others are the Spanish team Andalucia Caja Granada, France’s Cofidis, and the Dutch outfit Skil-Shimano.

Those four teams will join the 18 ProTeam squads who automatically qualify for the race as a result of an agreement reached last year between the UCI and the organisers of cycling’s three Grand Tours, the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta itself.

The 2011 Vuelta gets under way on 20th August with a team time trial in Benidorm and includes six summit finishes during its 21 stages, concluding in Madrid on 11 September.

In a statement, Unipublic said that it “reserves the right to modify this list if important circumstances are advising it to do so, always keeping the ethical responsibilities of the cyclist and his sport quality.”

Geox-TMC, which raced last year as Footon Servetto and now has Italian sponsorship on board, had a disappointing Giro, with Menchov, winner of that race in 2009 and of the Vuelta in 2005 and 2007, finishing in eighth position overall. Sastre also competed in the race but struggled with illness and failed to make an impact.

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.