As French Proteam B&B Hotels-KTM continue their last-ditch battle for survival, their Norwegian counterparts Uno-X Pro Cycling continue to hold out for a potential wildcard place in the 2023 Tour de France – with the two narratives being more closely intertwined than it could first appear.
B&B Hotels were selected last year for a wildcard to the Tour, meaning that if they did collapse, then Uno-X would arguably be among those with a greater chance of making it to the July 1st startline in Bilbao next year. If that happened, they’d be the first Norwegian team ever to take part in the Tour de France.
Lotto-Soudal, set to become Lotto Dstny in 2023, and TotalEnergies are the two teams which currently stand best to get an automatic invite for the Tour, leaving two of the 22 places still available through a direct wildcard choice.
Other teams likely to be looking for a wildcard selection include Israel-Premier Tech and Euskaltel-Euskadi, with the former, given their star-studded line-up including four times winner Chris Froome, almost certain to gain a spot.
But, as Uno-X management told Norwegian media outlet TV2 (opens in new tab), their hopes of securing a final place in what is an unspoken battle to make it to the 2023 Tour startline may well hinge, at least in part, on the fate of B&B Hotels-KTM.
“It is important to clarity that the trouble for B&B Hotels-KTM is not something we are happy about. But I believe we are qualified to take part in the Tour de France,” team manager Jens Haugland recently told TV2.
“If there is not a French Proteam that is in a position to be invited then our chances of being invited go from ‘less likely’ to ‘mostly likely’.”
Uno-X grew out of the Ringeriks-Kraft Continental squad, serving as a development team along the way, and moving up to ProTeam level for 2020. They already contained a strong line-up in 2022 with one-day racer and 2016 U-23 World Champion Kristoffer Halvorsen and former Tour de L’Avenir winner Tobias Halland Johannesen two of their best-known riders.
With eight Danish riders on their books, Uno-X had also hoped for a place in last summer’s Tour de France which started in Copenhagen, but it didn’t materialise. However, the addition of former Champs Elysees winner and renowned Classics specialist Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) to the roster for 2023 will raise their hypothetical game even higher.
“I will honestly admit that there are some nerve-wracking days now,” Haugland said. “Last week we were in Monaco and Geneva for various meetings with the UCI, teams, race organizers and other stakeholders.
“The response and the rumours there suggest that we are close. But nothing is decided yet.”