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Total-Direct Energie announced on Thursday that it will not race the Giro d’Italia in 2020, despite its automatic invite to the race, confirming rumors that emerged in the French press earlier this week.
Citing the challenges of attending all the events to which it has earned invites for next year as the top-ranked Pro Continental squad in 2019, the team said in a statement that it has to decide on a calendar that is feasible for its 24-rider roster.
“After discussion with the sports management, we decided not to go,” said team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau, whose squad includes riders like Niki Terpstra, Lilian Calmejane, and Rein Taaramäe.
“While we were delighted to see our first place in the Continental Pro rankings last October, our recruitment was almost complete. We did not have enough time to adjust the workforce.”
For most Pro Continental outfits, a Grand Tour bid is a highly-coveted prize, making Thursday’s announcement an unusual one for a second-division team to make, but recent changes to the race invite system helped set up the circumstances leading to the announcement.
Unlike WorldTour teams, all of which are invited and required to attend, second-division squads are not guaranteed participation to WorldTour events. For years, teams have vied for bids to their main targets on the calendar in the form of invites at the discretion of race organizers, but recent UCI reforms created a new pathway to automatic invites, earned via the team rankings.
Total-Direct Energie finished as the top-ranked Pro Continental squad in 2019, thereby earning automatic bids to every WorldTour race in 2020. The successful chase for ranking points was a major coup for the squad, relieving the team of any need to convince organizers that it was worthy of a wildcard invite–but it also means that the team is now invited to more races than it wants to attend.
With Total-Direct Energie likely to put its focus on the Tour, the cobbled Classics, and other races, the Giro was not as high on the team’s list of priorities for next year. As such, the team has decided to turn down its invite, a decision that L’Equipe reports came after Giro director Mauro Vegni asked Bernaudeau to skip the race; Total-Direct Energie’s decision to put its resources elsewhere this May will mean that the Giro will now have one extra slot for a wildcard invite that will likely go to Italian Pro Continental team instead.