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Tour de France News for June 24, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

Bruyneel: "Ullrich is the most dangerous"

In an interview with Spanish paper Marca, US Postal directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel has named Jan Ullrich as "still the most dangerous" to Lance Armstrong's chances of winning a sixth Tour de France.

Next on Bruyneel's list of threats is Iban Mayo, along with Tyler Hamilton, Roberto Heras, Ivan Basso, "and I would even dare to mention the name of [Illes Balears - Banesto rider Denis] Menchov," said Bruyneel.

Asked how much weight can be placed on Mayo and Hamilton's strong performances in the Dauphiné Libéré, Bruyneel said, "Very simple: Mayo and Hamilton were very strong, more than Lance, and their teams Euskaltel and Phonak also went very well. We were good, but not as good as them, but in a way that was to be expected as we weren't there to win."

"Well," said Bruyneel, "although we didn't go with the idea of winning, I was a little surprised by how much we lost on Mont Ventoux. The truth is, we didn't expect that."

Bruyneel said he wasn't worried by Mayo's Ventoux performance, "but it is evident that we have to improve. If they improve too, then we have a problem."

"In previous years Lance has dominated the Dauphiné, but this year we weren't there intending to do great things, knowing there were still five weeks to go till the mountains of the Tour. This year we have approached the season differently because we saw that either with the heat, the difficulty of the course, the effort we had to expend to defend the leadership,or the fall that [Lance] suffered, the Dauphiné last year was not great for us. So this year we were more relaxed, without obligations and without pressure."

Bruyneel confirmed the Tour strategy hinted at by USPS general manager Dan Osipow yesterday. "We think that we should not arrive at the start of the Tour at 100 percent, because the mountains this year come very late. We will arrive in good shape, but with margin for improvement."

Nevertheless, an in-form Mayo is a threat, said Bruyneel. "Mayo has taken an important step and is now not just a favourite to win a stage and finish in a good position, as last year, but a serious candidate for victory. It's going to be a different race for him."

Like Armstrong, who says he spends most of the year worrying about the Tour, Bruyneel has thought about the possibility of losing. "It's always possible to lose, " he said," and even quite easy. But I have confidence in Lance and the rest of the team and I don't have reasons to think about it too much."

Millar in custody

David Millar
Photo ©: AFP
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Cofidis' David Millar was taken into custody by French police Tuesday night in his home town of Biarritz. The world time trial champion has been held for questioning as a witness in the ongoing investigation surrounding members of the Cofidis team. Millar becomes the ninth person placed in custody or under investigation by judge Richard Pallain, following Bogdan Madejak, Oleg Kozlitine, Daniel Majewski, Marek Rutkiewicz, Robert Sassone, Philippe Gaumont, Médéric Clain, and Cédric Vasseur.

Reached by telephone Thursday, Cofidis manager Francis Van Londersele affirmed to Cyclingnews that Millar's questioning by French police was strictly as a witness in the ongoing investigation, and the rider himself currently faces no charges stemming from the case (and thus no risk of suspension from his team). Millar remained in custody Thursday but was expected to be released by the evening.

Phonak for Tour de France

The Swiss Phonak Hearing Systems Team has announced its roster for this year's Tour de France, the first participation for the team. With American Tyler Hamilton (4th in 2003) as its designated leader, the reinforced Phonak team will send Oscar Sevilla, Martin Elmiger, Bert Grabsch, Santos Gonzalez, José Enrique Gutierrez, Nicolas Jalabert, Oscar Pereiro, and Santi Perez to the start in Liège, Belgium. Frenchman Cyril Dessel has been named first reserve.

With only one Swiss rider in the line up, Martin Elmiger, Phonak has shown that its number one focus has been bringing in additional talent and providing the best possible team for Hamilton, more than a nationalistic representation. With a string of top performances in June, including a dominant performance at the Classique des Alpes and Hamilton's second overall at the Dauphiné Libéré, Phonak appears ready for its number one objective in France.

Evans reacts to Tour exclusion

In his latest diary comments, Australian cyclist Cadel Evans has reacted to his exclusion from T-Mobile's team for the Tour de France.

"I'm surprised and disappointed in the decision," writes Evans. "But I'm also frustrated that I've let down everyone who thought that I would be part of this year's Tour. At this stage, I'm not going to be there but of course I'll keep on training knowing that anything can happen in the next 10 days. It wouldn't surprise me too much if I do get the call-up so there's still a hint of hope."

Evans writes that he will now refocus his objectives for the season and concentrate on the world championships. But when he returns to the subject of the Tour his frustration is obvious. "I did join this team two years ago because I had ambitions for the Tour," he writes, "and now, even though I'm obviously riding well, I won't be there.

"Ah, not to worry… there'll be other challenges ahead," he concludes.

T-Mobile's Tour team now looks likely to be Jan Ullrich, Erik Zabel, Andreas Klöden, Matthias Kessler, Rolf Aldag, Santiago Botero, Daniele Nardello, Giuseppe Guerini, and Tomas Konecny. The team will be officially announced on Friday.

RAGT's Barle optimistic about the Tour

While conceding that his team - currently languishing at the bottom of the UCI Division I trade team rankings with fewer points than all but three Division II teams - is "not among the favourites", RAGT Semences - MG Rover team manager Serge Barle is optimistic about the Tour de France and this weekend's French national championships.

In the team's newsletter, Barle says the team's state of mind is "excellent. We've put all our problems behind us. Since the Dauphiné, we've got back into the swing of things and are each fully aware of the responsibilities in hand."

Barle thinks the team's best chance of a French title is in the time trial. "I think we can do well as we have Eddy Seigneur," he says. "I've seldom seen him so motivated. Without bragging at all, I think we're in with a chance for the title and certainly could find ourselves with a top three place with Guillaume Auger, either with Frédéric Finot who has shown on several occasions that he was a specialist."

As for the Tour, Barle, whose team has yet to break its winless run in UCI races this year, says he is "confident. Even if each of us knows that we're not among the favourites, we do never the less have what it takes to to do some good work on the best stages. The Société du Tour will not regret having selected us."

Alpe d'Huez crowd control

The department of Isère in France has announced its plans to promote- and cope with- the two Tour de France stages which will pay visit this July (21-22). Most importantly, the individual time trial of the famed Alpe d'Huez will present its usual challenge for security and crowd control. The Isère government has thus arranged for shuttle buses to take spectators from Grenoble to the town of Bourg d'Oisans at the base of the Alpe, leaving Grenoble's bus station every minute.

Additional security will be provided by 50 extra motorcycle escorts to ensure that every rider in the time trial has his own protection. Some 600 plus gendarmes will line the course and barriers will be extended from the finish down to the 7km to go banner. This year marks the first time that l'Alpe d'Huez will be used for a Tour time trial. The following day, Bourg d'Oisans will host the start of stage 17, a 212km mountain test finishing at Le Grand Bornand.

Tyler Hamilton Foundation live Tour stage

The Tyler Hamilton Foundation is co-ordinating a live transmission of stage 13 of the Tour de France to 19 cinemas across the USA on Saturday, July 17, 2004.

The fund-raising event in support of the THF's work to raise money for the victims of multiple sclerosis is supported by OLN, which is providing the satellite feed, and Regal CineMedia, which owns the cinemas.

Stage 13 is a mountainous 217km trip from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille. Foundation patron Tyler Hamilton said "Just knowing that an entire nation of fans and enthusiasts are supporting the Foundation and watching me race live, will provide much needed strength during a particularly difficult juncture of this race."

For more information see www.tylerhamiltonfoundation.org.

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