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Tour de France News for June 22, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Court setback for Armstrong

A French judge has rejected the request by Lance Armstrong's lawyer to force the publisher of "LA Confidential" to include in each copy of the book a statement by Armstrong denouncing the book's accusation that he has engaged in doping during his career. The book by Pierre Ballester and David Walsh hit shelves a week ago, and Armstrong's legal team reacted immediately, beginning legal proceedings in France and the United Kingdom against the authors and publishers.

"By ruling against Mr. Armstrong, the judge has understood perfectly that Armstrong has attempted to respond through the courts to the journalists' questions he previously refused to answer," commented Arnault de Montbrial, lawyer for the book's publisher, Editions de la Martinière.

With this initial setback, Armstrong must pay each author and the publisher a symbolic fee of 1 euro each for "abuse of procedure" and 1,500 euros to cover court expenses.

"This decision guards the right of journalists to engage in serious investigations, and reminds us that a person who is object of such an investigation cannot use his refusal to answer questions to have a judge impose censure," de Montbrial added."

Pierre Ballester, one of the book's co-authors, said simply "we're pleased that the judge considers this is a question of investigative journalism and not sensationalism."

Meanwhile, Armstrong's lawyer Christian Charrière-Bournazel has entered an appeal to the decision.

"I'm very upset and I don't share the opinion of the court," he told AFP, adding that he and Armstrong were not seeking the suppression of the book, rather a chance to provide the statement to readers asserting Armstrong's denial of the most serious charges.

Quick.Step names Tour team

The Quick.Step-Davitamon team, thus far the most successful team of the 2004 season, has named its roster for the Tour de France. Juan Miguel Mercado and Michael Rogers will be the team's primary men for the general classification, while Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen will fight for stage wins. Richard Virenque has targeted a seventh polka dot jersey of best climber, which would make him the absolute record holder. Supporting these riders will be Davide Bramati, Laurent Dufaux, Servais Knaven (stage winner in 2003), and Stefano Zanini. Two riders held in reserve are Laszlo Bodrogi and Pedro Horrillo.

Rabobank names Tour team

Rabobank has announced its team for the Tour de France, which in spite of the absence of sprinter Oscar Freire should still be a very competitive one. Team directors Erik Breukink and Frans Maassen have selected Michael Boogerd, Erik Dekker, Karsten Kroon, Bram de Groot, Marc Lotz, Michael Rasmussen, Levi Leipheimer, Marc Wauters and Grischa Niermann. South African Robert Hunter, who won two stages in the Tour de Suisse, has been appointed as first reserve.

"For the line up of our team, we have looked at the qualities of Rasmussen, Leipheimer and Boogerd for the mountain stages plus an attacking way of competing in the other stages," said Erik Breukink. "Now that we're missing Freire, unfortunately, we're out for the bunch sprints, but for the other stages we have the qualities."

In terms of the general classification, Breukink added, "We will try to bring Leipheimer and Rasmussen as far as possible."

Of the team, Rasmussen is the only rider never to have ridden in the Tour. All the others have 42 Tour starts between them, with 31 finishes. Past yellow jersey wearer Marc Wauters is the most experienced of the team and is starting his 12th Tour, while Erik Dekker is ready for his 10th. The members of the squad have also accumulated eight stage wins between them, namely Dekker (4), Boogerd (2), Kroon (1) and Wauters (1).

T-Mobile's (unofficial) Tour squad

Botero in Tour team
Photo ©: Franklin Tello

Although the German team's nine member Tour de France team will be officially presented in Bonn this Friday, Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws has reported that, "Manager Walter Godefroot has set the nine names on paper that will start in the Tour on July 3."

Apart from the obvious presence of Tour de Suisse winner Jan Ullrich, according to HLN the team will contain Tour of Austria winner Cadel Evans, Giuseppe Guerini, Andreas Klöden, Matthias Kessler and Daniele Nardello to help Ullrich in the mountains. Santiago Botero will be employed as an all round helper, with the team time trial foremost in mind, while sprinter Erik Zabel will have Rolf Aldag as a lead out man.

T-Mobile will miss having Alexandre Vinokourov, who finished third in the Tour last year, in the team after his crash in the Tour de Suisse left him sidelined for three weeks with a shoulder injury.

(Update: The latest news from Cadel Evans is that he has been selected as a "first reserve" for the TdF and is not among the first group of nine.)

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