Yorkshire duo hoping for Italian invitation

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Two Yorkshire riders are in the running to feature in a grand tour this summer as their recently-merged team lobbies for an invite into May’s Giro d’Italia.

Rotherham’s Russell Downing and Burley-in-Wharfedale’s Scott Thwaites are two men at opposite ends of the career spectrum hoping for what would be a significant opportunity with their new team NetApp-Endura.

Downing raced the Giro for Team Sky two years ago, with his maiden grand tour campaign blighted by a dangerous incident which saw him career over a crash barrier and plummet 20 metres into a ravine.

He managed to make it to the end of the race and at 34 is in line to continue the Indian summer of a career spent largely with British teams.

Thwaites, 22, is Britain’s men’s circuit race champion and the winner of the last two Otley grands prix.

He has also won the Under-23s national road race title in his time, with his move to NetApp-Endura offering him the chance to test his talents on the continent on a more regular basis.

NetApp-Endura have revealed that talks to secure a grand tour invite this season are “proceeding well”.

The squad, formed from a merger of British outfit Endura Racing – for whom both Downing and Thwaites rode – and Germany’s NetApp, are understood to be one of nine teams to have applied for a wildcard invitation to this year’s Giro, which takes place from May 4-26. The previous incarnation of Team NetApp raced at last year’s Giro d’Italia and the new outfit have already begun negotiations to secure another three-week stage race appearance in 2013.

Team manager Ralph Denk said: “Our stated goal for 2013 is to compete in a grand tour. Talks with all organisers are proceeding well.”

NetApp-Endura will start their season at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina at the end of January, before switching attention to the Middle East for the tours of Qatar and then Oman in February.

Denk added: “The first months of the year are important for laying the foundations.”