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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 6-28, 2002

Tour de France news for May 3, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Tour de France teams: more comments

With the announcement earlier today of the five teams to be selected for this year's Tour, the reactions have come from both those who made the cut and those who missed out (see earlier story for comments from BigMat and Jean Delatour). The five teams are as follows: Credit Agricole, Bonjour, Ag2r, Franšaise des Jeux and Saeco-Longoni Sport.

The latter were the only non-French team to make the selection, bringing the total of Italian teams in this year's Tour to six, which is one more than France. That's not surprising, given the strength of Italian cycling at the moment, although Italy's top sprinter Mario Cipollini (Acqua e Sapone) did not get an invite.

Jean-Marie Leblanc's comments

Jean-Marie Leblanc's selections this year were not quite as controversial as last year, when he was criticised for leaving out the better performing teams in favour of more French teams. Some of those did well in the Tour, but some didn't - in particular BigMat did not get another chance this year.

Leblanc commented that the first four teams selected this year were "uncontestable". "Saeco said it would come with Simoni, third ranked in the world, and Di Luca...One cannot protest the selection of Bonjour, which as a team is irreproachable, and Credit Agricole which had two riders in yellow last year and has been reinforced by two of the best French riders (Moreau and Brard). La Franšaise des Jeux has had an excellent start to the season and is worthy of a place. The vote was unanimous for these four teams."

The toughest choice was for the fifth team, which went to Ag2r-Prevoyance on a vote of 4 for Ag2r to 3 for Acqua e Sapone. "Of the five, this is the team that is the least convincing on paper," said Leblanc. "But it is necessary to remember that Jaan Kirsipuu has already worn the yellow jersey two years ago, that he won a stage last year, as did Christophe Agnolutto before him. This team never has a disappointing summer in the Tour de France....It has good riders, Kirsipuu evidently, but also Botcharov, Chaurreau, Turpin, who can do a good Tour de France."

On the choice to exclude Acqua e Sapone, "Italy is the best represented country with six teams out of the 21," said Leblanc, who no doubt still remembers the snub that Cipollini gave the Societe earlier last month when he decided not to ride Paris-Roubaix.

One team with a chance is Mercatone Uno, which may gain a late selection if Marco Pantani wins the Giro. "If he won the Giro, we would re-examined the possibility of a 22nd team", added Leblanc, who was not particularly convinced by Pantani's recent performances.

Finally, on the possibility that certain teams may disappear with their non-selection, Leblanc stated "The survival of a team is not our responsibility. The survival of a team is primarily based on its results. To select, is to choose. And to choose, is to dissatisfy."

Claudio Corti (Saeco)

Saeco's team manager Claudio Corti said of the decision that "Obviously we're very satisfied and thankful to the French organizers, we're certain to honour this big event with a high level participation. Gilberto Simoni and Danilo Di Luca are two international characters, and they will be able, each one in different moments, to assure important performances. They will be sustained by a sound and fighting team."

Guisseppe Martinelli (Saeco)

"We're extremely pleased to be invited, and we're sure we have a contender for the podium in Gilberto Simoni. Simoni always said that his targets this season were the Giro and the Tour de France. He hasn't changed his mind. He'll be on good form for the Tour, and if he wins the Giro first, we'll head there even more motivated."

"Gilberto will go to the Tour in any case, he really wants to compete with Lance Armstrong. Aside from Pantani in 2000, Armstrong didn't have any really dangerous rivals in the mountain stages. Gilberto can at least make Armstrong's legs hurt, and he has a chance to make the podium at the Tour."

"As he has said many times, he really wants to see what happens in the mountain stages when he comes face to face with Armstrong. And he is confident he can make the American's life difficult at the Tour."

On Di Luca opting to miss the Tour of Italy to prepare for the Tour de France: "Di Luca is going to be taking part in his very first Tour de France this season. He feels really motivated and is very excited about it. Of course, the Tour will be an enormous new experience for him."

"I know from my own experience that it is really hard to cut a good impression and get good results at your first Tour de France. But this guy Di Luca really has class, he has surprised me in many ways."

Courtesy of Darren Tulett and Alessandra Bacchetta/Bloomberg News

Vincent Lavenu (Ag2r-Prevoyance)

"We had fears, even though we had good sporting arguments, had the 19th ranked rider in the world, are the fourth ranked French team, and the fact that we have won five stages in the last four years. One could equally put forward economic arguments that we remain faithful to cycling, notably Decathlon, our choice of bicycle. But that did not prevent the stress, a big consumer of energy. Now, we are so much more relieved that Jaan Kirsipuu will come back to his full capacity after his accident in training. He has already ridden 1800 kilometres at home in Estonia."

Alain Gallopin (Team Coast)

"We thought we could do well in this Tour but alas, we have received the same response as last year. We had nevertheless done all that was necessary in obtaining results. We had constructed a good team of climbers. A lot more is needed I know. In regards to the future I am reserved. Last year, with Mercury, I said that this was not dramatic. The team subsequently folded [from division I]. I cannot say that this is a globally unfair decision: I understand that you have to take the French teams. I would say it's unfair for us."

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