March 30, 2010 update: 2010 Tour de France teams announced
The following question came up quite a bit recently when Lance Armstrong's new RadioShack team was awarded a 4-year ProTour license: Does this mean they are in the 2010 Tour de France?
Some news outlets reported that a ProTour license guarantees access to the Tour de France. That is not the case. The only teams guaranteed entry to the 2010 Tour (as with the 2009 Tour) are the teams with ProTour status as of September, 2008 when an agreement was signed that put an end to years-long disagreements between organizers of the Grand Tours, notably Tour de France organizer Amaury Sport Organization (A.S.O.), and the International Cycling Union (UCI). Of the 18 ProTour teams in existence in September, 2008, 16 remain after Credit Agricole and Gerolsteiner withdrew from the sport.
French sports daily L'Equipe Thursday clarified the situation by listing the 16 teams covered by the September, 2008 agreement and therefore guaranteed entry to the 2010 Tour (assuming no ethical violations between now and next July). This includes teams that have lost ProTour status from 2010 forward, such as Cofidis and Bbox Bouygues Telecom; they are guaranteed an invite to the 2010 Tour. L'Equipe also listed other teams and their chances of being invited to the race.
16 ProTeams covered by September, 2008 agreement and guaranteed Tour de France invitations:
1. AG2R La Mondiale
3. Bbox Bouygues Telecom
4. Caisse d'Epargne
8. Francaise des Jeux
9. Footon Servetto (formerly Fuji)
13. Quick Step
15. Saxo Bank
* With reports circulating this evening that Alberto Contador may be able to get out of his contract with Astana, it is anyone's guess as to what would happen with Astana if Contador departs. Technically, they would still be covered by the September, 2008 agreement, even if they lose ProTour status, but would the team even survive? And if they did survive, would Tour organizer A.S.O. accept an Astana team led by Alexandre Vinokourov?
3 ProTeams NOT covered by September, 2008 agreement but sure to get invitations (L'Equipe calls these teams 99% sure to receive invitations):
L'Equipe estimates the chances of ProTeam Katusha at 95%:
That's already 20 teams (180 riders), the number invited to the 2009 Tour de France. But Tour director Christian Prudhomme, quoted in L'Equipe, seems prepared to invite the maximum of 22 teams (198 riders if they stick with 9 riders per team). In that scenario, what other two teams might the Tour invite in 2010?
L'Equipe estimates the chances of Continental Pro team Cervelo at 80%:
L'Equipe considers Continental Pro teams Vacansoleil and Saur-Sojasun to each have a 40% chance of being invited. They put Skil-Shimano at 15%.
The September, 2008 agreement only runs through 2010. From 2011, the top 17 ranked teams will automatically receive invitations to the Tour regardless of their status (ProTour, Continental Pro,...) with remaining teams needing to depend on wild cards.