SPORTS

Despite strong performance last year, Team Colombia excluded from 2015 Giro d'Italia

Team Colombia during the first stage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Team Colombia during the first stage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  (2014 Getty Images)

Despite the country claiming the top two spots in last year’s stage race – and four spots in the overall top 30 – the organizers of the famed Giro d’Italia cycling race have decided to leave Team Colombia off of the list of squads who will line up in San Lorenzo al Mare for stage one of the event on May 9.

Showing what some claim is national favoritism, Giro d’Italia organizer RCS Sport chose four Italian teams and one Polish squad as wild cards to compete in the Grand Tour along with the 17 WorldTour teams already guaranteed a spot.

"As per every previous year, we reflected deeply on the wildcard choices; an increasingly meticulous process thanks to the quality of the teams that want to participate in our races," said Mauro Vegni, RCS Sport Head of Cycling, according to Cycling Weekly. "This year’s choices, especially for the wildcards of the Giro d’Italia, were dictated by the opportunity to support the Italian cycling movement, giving continuity to an overall process without ever losing sight of the goal of international development in strategic territories."

I thought RCS Sport would have us back to their race...I thought that we deserved it."

- Claudio Corti, Team Colombia’s director

The news of the teams exclusion was particularly shocking given that Team Colombia competed in the Giro in 2013 and last year, where 28-year-old Fabio Duarte had strong showings in the mountains — he finished second on stages that ended on the summits of the Panarotta and Montecapione. The team overall, however, had a poor showing: it finished last in the team classification category.

"I thought RCS Sport would have us back to their race," Team Colombia’s director Claudio Corti told VeloNews. "I thought that we deserved it."

Team Colombia, which has its riders live and train in Brescia, in Italy’s northern Lombardy region, acts as a bridge between Latin America and Europe with many of its riders making the jump to bigger European teams and bigger contracts, like Esteban Chaves and Darwin Atapuma, who ride for Orica-GreenEdge and BMC Racing respectively.

The team will have to console themselves this year with invitations to RCS Sport’s other races, Milano-Sanremo, Tirreno-Adriatico, and Giro di Lombardia — all major races but ones that lack the drama and prestige of a Grand Tour like the Giro d'Italia or the Tour de France.

With last year’s winner, Colombian Nairo Quintana of Spain’s Movistar, focusing his efforts on the Tour de France and Team Colombia excluded from the race, the lone Colombian who could stand atop the podium when the race finishes in Milan on May 31 is Rigoberto Uran.

The 27-year-old climbing specialist from Urrao in the Colombian cycling hotbed of Antioquia came in second last year in the Giro behind Quintana and has a number of big performances in his career, including coming in second twice in the Giro, third in the 2012 Giro di Lombardia and winning a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics in London.

Uran, who rides for the Belgian Etixx-Quick Step team, plans to race in the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France this season. He said that the parcours of the Giro suit his style of cycling well and that he hopes to be back on the podium for the third straight year, while his race plans for the Tour de France are still up in the air.

"I will try to go there to do well, but it will be more linked to rediscovering the race and to stage hunt," Uran told CyclingNews. "But of course I’d also like to do well in the last week and give a hand to the team when necessary. About my program after the Tour, it is not yet decided. I want to focus on the intense part of my season that will be a great opportunity for me. I can ride the races I love and I am super motivated to do it."

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