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Team NetApp scored a big coup Tuesday when it earned one of four wild-card invitations to race the 2012 Giro d’Italia.
Giro officials tipped the German-registered team to race the season’s first grand tour (May 5-27), joining 18 ProTeam squads which had a starting spot guaranteed.
The other three teams are all Italian squads, with Androni Giocattoli, Colnago-CSF Inox and Farnese Vini rounding out the invitations.
The big loser is Acqua e Sapone, the team of 2000 Giro winner and perennial stage hunter Stefano Garzelli.
New Giro boss Michele Acquarone pushed the wild-card selection date up to January from the typical date in early March in order to give teams a chance to better plan their season. Previously, wild card bids to grand tours were at least partially based on early-season performances.
A potential list of 22 “wild-card” candidates was reduced to 14 candidates last month. A five-member panel then whittled that list down to the four finalists.
Androni Giocattoli, Colnago-CSF Inox and Farnese Vini are all consistent performers in the Giro, with Farnese Vini signing Italian star Filippo Pozzato for the 2012 season. Colnago-CSF Inox brings a young squad led by rising sprinter Sacha Modolo and GC candidate Domenico Pozzovivo.
Androni Giocattoli, led by the charismatic team manager Gianni Savio, will return with 2005 Giro podium finisher José Rujano and Emanuele Sella.
Defending champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) has already said he will not return to challenge for the 2012 crown, opening the door for such Italian favorites as Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi.
RCS Sport also revealed wild-card teams for its races, as follows:
Tirreno-Adriatico (March 7-13): Acqua e Sapone, Colnago, Colombia-Coldeportes and Farnese Vini
Milan-San Remo (March 17): Acqua e Sapone, Colnago, Colombia-Coldeportes, Farnese Vini, Project 1t4i, Team Type 1, Utensilnord-Named
Giro di Lombardia (September 29): Acqua e Sapone, Androni, Colnago, Colombia-Coldeportes, Farnese Vini, Project 1t4i, Utensilnord-Named