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by Shane Stokes
January 15, 2015
Bora-Argon 18 general manager Ralph Denk has made his elation clear after his team was given a repeat invite for the Tour de France, describing the news as ‘a dream come true.’
The German was reacting after Tour organisers ASO announced on Wednesday that the team had been given a second consecutive wildcard invitation to the race.
It will consequently join the other selected teams, namely MTN-Qhubeka and the French squads Europcar, Cofidis and Bretagne-Séché Environnement, as well as the 17 WorldTour squads.
“A return to the Tour de France was our primary goal for this season,” said Denk after the news was confirmed. “It was ambitious, but we have achieved it. I would like to thank ASO for the early announcement of the invitation, because we now have six months to prepare our team optimally.”
The squad had a GC focus last year and achieved seventh place overall with Leopold Konig. The Czech rider has since moved from the-then NetApp Endura lineup to Team Sky, but Denk said that he believed another rider would be able to step up and chase a similar goal.
“We are stronger now that we have been joined by Dominik Nerz, currently Germany’s best classification rider,” he explained. “With Dominik we intend to compete for a top-ten position in the general classification and thus give German fans the opportunity to get excited even during the mountain stages.
“We can already promise that our team will make quite an impact at this year’s Tour de France too.”
The team has built up a strong sprint train and its Irish galloper Sam Bennett earlier said that he hoped he would be given the nod were the team to be picked for the Tour.
Bennett clocked up three UCI sprint wins in his debut pro season last year, but was passed over for selection due to his youth and relative inexperience.
He told CyclingTips recently that he believed he could be set for a strong second season, having both more peak power in his off-season sprints and also being lighter than he had been during the 2014 season.
He will now aim to clock up a series of strong results and show that he deserves to also be a protected rider in the squad.
The team’s wildcard selection was strongly anticipated due to last week’s announcement that the ARD television channel would return to showing the Tour live.
Although Eurosport was already doing this in the country, the free to air nature of ARD means that the Tour should have a greater exposure than in recent years.
That plus the importance of the German economy meant that many believed it was a no-brainer for ASO to include Bora-Argon 18 on its list of invites.
The squad will also be joined by fellow German team Giant-Alpecin. It will feature Marcel Kittel, who has clocked up a total of eight stage wins during the past two Tours.
The Tour de France starts in Utrecht on July 4.