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90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003
The teams & the contenders
Part 2: CSC, Euskaltel, Gerolsteiner, iBanesto.com, Kelme, Lotto
This year's Tour will see one of the strongest fields ever assembled set out from Paris on July 5. With the start of the Tour just days away, here's the second installment of our four-part look at the teams and the stars that will animate the Centenary Tour.
Managed by 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis, Team CSC is improving with age, and this year goes to the Tour with a realistic chance of a top five finish. With Lance Armstrong's former lieutenant Tyler Hamilton enjoying his best-ever season, with victories in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Romandy, CSC also has Spaniard Carlos Sastre for the general classification. For stage wins, the team can look to Jacob Piil, winner of the 2002 Paris-Tours as well as the Wachovia Invitational in Trenton this year.
For support work for the GC riders, CSC can count on Danes Michael Blaudzun, Bekim Christensen and Nicki Sørensen, Italian veteran Andrea Peron, Austrian climber Peter Luttenberger and Frenchman Nicolas Jalabert.
Full roster: Tyler Hamilton (USA), Carlos Sastre(Spa), Michael Blaudzun (Den), Jacob Piil(Den), Nicki Sørensen (Den), Andrea Peron (Ita), Nicolas Jalabert (Fra), Peter Luttenberger (Aut) and Bekim Christensen (Den).
After a lackluster performance in the 2002 Tour, the Basque outfit Euskaltel-Euskadi is looking to make amends in 2003. Led by the talented Iban Mayo, the team will most likely go for stage wins, particularly in the mountains. Mayo caused a few problems for Lance Armstrong in the Dauphiné Libéré, and while he has stated that the general classification is a little out of reach at the moment, don't be too surprised if he comes away with a very nice result. Mayo is handy against the clock too, but will generally lose time to the specialists.
The remainder of the team is based on an attacking philosophy, with the likes of Roberto Laiseka, Samuel Sanchez, David Etxebarria and Haimar Zuebeldia all very capable of stage wins.
Full roster: Iban Mayo (Spa), Mikel Artexte (Spa), Roberto Laiseka (Spa), Iñigo Landaluze (Spa), Samuel Sanchez (Spa), David Etxebarria (Spa), Unai Etxebarria (Ven), Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) and either Alberto Martinez (Spa) or Alberto Lopez de Munain (Spa).
The centenary Tour will be Gerolsteiner's first outing in the Grand Boucle, but several of its members have buckets of Grand Tour experience. Italian David Rebellin leads the squad, more than likely looking for a stage win and maybe a top 10 on GC. Rebellin missed the Giro d'Italia due to injury, and is fully focused on doing well in the Tour.
For the general classification Austrian climber Georg Totschnig will be looking to emulate his good Giro performance, where he finished fifth overall and was consistent in all the mountain stages. Totschnig is also solid against the clock, and if he still has his Giro form then he should make the top 10.
At their sides will be German Tour veteran Udo Bölts, who gave many years of excellent service to the Telekom team and who will be riding his last Tour before his recently-announced retirement at the end of 2003. Udo is one of the top domestiques in cycling, and knows the roads of the Tour extremely well. The team is well equipped for the sprints too, with René Haselbacher and Olaf Pollack the main spearheads, along with Markus Zberg, who can win a small group sprint. For the time trials, Germans Uwe Peschel and Michael Rich are riders capable of finishing on the podium, even on the number one spot.
Full roster: Udo Bölts (Ger), Davide Rebellin (Ita), Georg Totschnig (Aut), René Haselbacher (Aut), Markus Zberg Swi), Olaf Pollack (Ger), Torsten Schmidt (Ger), Uwe Peschel (Ger) and Michael Rich (Ger).
Jose Miguel Echavarri's team will always be remembered for Miguel Indurain's incredible run of five consecutive Tours de France, a record that Lance Armstrong is looking to equal this year. After Indurain retired in 1996, iBanesto could not hope to fill the void that he left, and has since then been searching for glory in the form of stage wins with some solid performances on GC by its climbers.
This year it will be led by mountain goat Francisco Mancebo, winner of the Classique des Alpes and also the Tour's Best Young Rider classification in 2000. Mancebo's main partner in crime will be Juan Miguel Mercado, who won the tough Galibier stage of the Dauphiné, and will be another man to watch in the mountain stages of the Tour.
The remaining iBanesto team is split between Spanish and Russian riders, with climber Denis Menchov, Vladimir Karpets and time trialist Evgeni Petrov making up the Russian contingent, and Juan Antonio Flecha, Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta, Pablo Lastras, Xavier Zandio making up the Spanish contingent along with Mancebo and Mercado.
Full roster: Francisco Mancebo (Spa), Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa), Denis Menchov (Rus), Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa), Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa), Pablo Lastras (Spa), Xavier Zandio (Spa), Vladimir Karpets (Rus) and Evgeni Petrov (Rus).
Traditionally one of the most attacking teams in the Tour, Kelme-Costa Blanca has suffered a blow this year with the loss of Oscar Sevilla, best young rider in the 2001 Tour and the team's key man for the general classification. Sevilla was been unable to train properly following an operation to remove a cyst in the groin area, and in mid-June decided that he would forego the Tour this year.
That leaves a team of all rounders, who will surely go on the attack whenever possible, adhering to the Kelme philosophy. Javier Pascual Llorente was in great form at the beginning of the season, but has been quieter recently. Other riders such as Jose Enrique Gutierrez, Jesus Manzano and David Latasa are more promising, but with Kelme, you never really know.
Full roster: Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Spa), Javier Pascual Llorente (Spa), Antonio Tauler (Spa), Ignacio Gutierrez (Spa), Jesus Manzano (Spa), Julian Usano (Spa), David Muñoz (Spa), David Latasa (Spa) and Ivan Parra (Col).
The Belgian Lotto-Domo squad will be at the Tour primarily for stage wins, with 2002 Green Jersey winner Robbie McEwen the principal hope of the squad in the bunch sprints. McEwen won two stages in the Tour last year to go with his jersey, and is hungry for more this year following a relatively lean start to the season. However he has two Giro wins (stage 4 and stage 11) and a Tour de Suisse stage under his belt, and will certainly be ready for the Tour. His sprint rival and winner of six Giro stages this year, Alessandro Petacchi says McEwen is the man to beat in the sprints.
Axel Merckx, Rik Verbrugghe, Serge Baguet and Leon van Bon are the team's main chances in the transitional stages, if any of them can get in a break that doesn't threaten the GC (although Axel might have his own ambitions in that area). The remaining riders will be devoted to chasing down breakaways in order to set things up for a bunch sprint for McEwen.
Full roster: Axel Merckx (Bel), Robbie McEwen (Aus), Serge Baguet (Bel), Christophe Brandt (Bel), Koos Moerenhout (Ned), Leon Van Bon (Ned), Rik Verbrugghe (Bel), Nick Gates (Aus) and Hans de Clercq (Bel).