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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
The teams line up - part two
With the start list more or less finalized for the 2002 Tour, Cyclingnews chief online editor Jeff Jones tips the chances for success of the teams and the roles of their major players.
US Postal Service (USA)
The team of the defending champion Lance Armstrong looks to be the strongest yet this year, well balanced for the mountains and the flats, with no other goal in mind than to protect Lance. Most of the team members have ridden the Tour before, with Russian powerhouse Viatcheslav Ekimov having finished it no less than 11 times. Jose Luis Rubiera, Victor Hugo Pena, Roberto Heras and Floyd Landis are all talented in the mountains, while George Hincapie, Pavel Padrnos, and Ekimov will help tow the team on the flats and in the team time trial. This team will take a lot of beating, especially as Armstrong is in tip-top condition once again, having won both the Midi Libre and Dauphine Libéré, two very important Tour preparation races.
Team Deutsche Telekom (Germany)
Team Telekom has been the Posties' main rival for the past two years, with Jan Ullrich the only rider who has been able to really challenge Armstrong in the mountains and the time trials. However, Ullrich is out of action due to a knee injury (and possibly worse things), and Team Telekom has had to change its strategy.
The primary focus now will be getting Erik Zabel his seventh green jersey, awarded to the most consistent sprinter in the race. For that he has two very quick lead out men in Gian-Matteo Fagnini and Danilo Hondo, while Rolf Aldag, Steffen Wesemann and Udo Bölts can also help in the final kilometres. For the GC, Bobby Julich, Kevin Livingston and Guiseppe Guerini will all be useful, with Julich in his best form for a long time this season.
The Lotto-Adecco team has been put together for just one thing: stage wins. Their designated GC rider Kurt Van de Wouwer was swapped for Thierry Marichal six days before the start of the Tour, much to the disappointment of Van de Wouwer who has finished the Tour three times, no lower than 17th place. On the flat stages, the team will be working for Robbie McEwen, whose big aim is to win at least one stage in the race. On the hillier stages and time trials, they have Rik Verbrugghe, who rode very well in the Giro d'Italia, taking one stage and coming close in several others. He, Mario Aerts and Serge Baguet are all solid chances for stage wins, with the rest of the team being Christophe Brandt, Hans De Clercq, Guennadi Mikhailov, and Aart Vierhouten.
The boys in orange will this year come to the Tour with an American - Levi Leipheimer - as their main GC rider. Leipheimer was signed by Rabobank following his impressive third place in the Vuelta Espana, riding for US Postal. After a quiet early season, Leipheimer came into form by winning the Route du Sud less than two weeks prior to the Tour, and will be a man to watch for Armstrong.
Co-leader Michael Boogerd hasn't quite got the consistency in the mountains to be a GC contender, but we can expect to see him up there after riding a good first half of the season. Although normally a certain bet for a stage win, Erik Dekker is still on the comeback trail after breaking his leg in Milan-San Remo, and isn't sure how he'll fare in the Tour. The rest of the team - Grischa Niermann, Beat Zberg, Marc Wauters, Karsten Kroon, Addy Engels and Bram de Groot - are all experienced, and look for a good ride from Addy Engels, who showed plenty of fight during the Giro d'Italia.
Formerly known as La Francaise des Jeux, this French squad is one of the better ones to put money on, so to speak. They have excellent stage win chances, with riders like Bradley McGee, breakaway specialist Jacky Durand, and sprinters Baden Cooke and Jimmy Casper. Look for Sandy Casar in the mountains, while Frédéric Guesdon, Christophe Mengin, Jean-Cyril Robin, and French champion Nicolas Vogondy are all very versatile riders.