Europcar lodge application for place on 2014 UCI WorldTour as team targets top races
Last Updated: 02/10/13 3:11pm
Europcar are hoping to participate in races such as the Vuelta a Espana
Europcar have applied to the International Cycling Union for a place on next season's WorldTour.
The French team are currently part of the Pro Continental tour, cycling's second tier, but their title sponsor is keen for them to step up in order to guarantee participation in all of the sport's biggest races.
Pro Continental teams have to rely on invites to events such as the three Grand Tours and while Europcar are a regular fixture in most French races, including the Tour de France, they regularly miss out on the likes of the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana.
Confirming to the Sud Ouest newspaper that the application has been lodged, Europcar team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau said: "Now we have to wait for the verdict. Our sponsor wanted to participate in all the big races, including the Vuelta a Espana."
Place up for grabs
There have been 19 teams on the 2013 WorldTour but two of those, Euskaltel-Euskadi and Vacansoleil-DCM, are set to fold at the end of the season after failing to find replacements for departing sponsors.
The WorldTour has traditionally only had 18 teams, but it was expanded by one this year after Katusha successfully appealed against being left off the original list of 18 and were later added.
Should the UCI choose to return to an 18-team WorldTour, one place will become available for the 2014 campaign. Europcar are the current highest-ranked team on the Pro Continental tour, but will neverthless face stiff competition for the spot.
Pierre Rolland was active for Europcar in this summer's Tour de France
Switzerland-based IAM Cycling are a strong candidate after following up an impressive first year in existence by announcing the signatures of the likes of Sylvain Chavanel, Jerome Pineau, Mathias Frank and Vicente Reynes for 2014.
Team NetApp-Endura could also present a compelling case for inclusion after some aggressive performances and a stage win at the Vuelta, where they received a wildcard invite, but they confirmed today that they are yet to decide on whether or not they will apply for the 2014 WorldTour.
Should Europcar get the nod, Bernaudeau admitted he would have to expand his current roster of riders. He added: "I currently have 22 riders, which is too much for our current level, but if we go to the WorldTour, we will take three more, but I will not go beyond."
Vacansoleil-DCM, meanwhile, will cease to exist in their current form at the end of the season but will merge with the Accent.jobs - Wanty team to form a new Pro Continental squad, with construction company Wanty as their lead sponsor.
Vacansoleil-DCM sports director Hilaire van der Schueren has taken over Accent.jobs - Wanty and is hoping to take a clutch of Vacansoleil-DCM riders with him to the new team, including Bjorn Leukemans.