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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Road Season Preview 2004

The racing season is upon us, and Cyclingnews has been there as the major squads have rolled out their line-ups for 2004. In this section we've gathered together all our stories from the team launches to provide an overview of what the teams say they're going for this year - if they all succeed, that top step in Paris is going to be mighty crowded at the end of July.

Over the next few weeks we'll also be looking at the national scenes around the world. For many riders and teams the World Cup and the Grand Tours are years away if they're attainable at all, but there's still plenty of exciting racing among them in the 'minor leagues'.

Below we provide an alphabetical listing of links to stories on all the team presentations that have been covered on Cyclingnews.com.

A2R: AG2r Prévoyance (France)
ALB: Alessio - Bianchi (Italy)
BLB: Brioches La Boulangère (France)
CA: Crédit Agricole (France)
CHO: Chocolade Jacques - Wincor Nixdorf (Belgium)
COF: Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone (France)
CSC: Team CSC (Denmark)
EUS: Euskaltel - Euskadi (Spain)
FAS: Fassa Bortolo (Italy)
FDJ: fdjeux.com (France)
GST: Gerolsteiner (Germany)
IBB: Illes Balears - Banesto (Spain)
LAN: Landbouwkrediet - Colnago (Belgium)
LOT: Lotto - Domo (Belgium)
LST: Liberty Seguros (Spain)
MOB: T-Mobile Team (Germany)
PHO: Phonak Hearing Systems (Switzerland)
QSD: Quickstep - Davitamon (Belgium)
RAB: Rabobank (Netherlands)
RAG: R.A.G.T Semence - MG Rover (France)
REB: Relax - Bodysol (Spain)
SAE: Saeco (Italy)
SDV: Saunier Duval - Prodir (Spain)
USP: US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor (USA)
VIN: Vini Calderola - Nobili Rubinetterie (Italy)

Country by country

Belgium and the Netherlands: Small countries, big sport

With seven teams in Division I and one in Division II, Belgium and the Netherlands are regaining their status as two of the top cycling nations. Belgium in fact boasts five Division I teams, a result of a comparatively high level of sponsorship in a country with a population of just over 10 million. It's a sure sign that cycling is still very much a part of the culture, and companies can see the value of advertising by sponsoring a sport that gets so much media coverage. The Netherlands, which for years had Rabobank as its only Division I squad, now has a second one in BankGiroLoterij.

Team breakdown for Belgium and the Netherlands

France - Target: Le Tour

It is sometimes difficult to judge just how popular cycling remains in France, but with six Division I teams in the professional peloton, and many of the sport's biggest races held on French soil, the nation's investment in the sport is evident. Three Division III teams are also sponsored in France, including Crédit Agricole's development team, but the lack of Division II teams shows just how important a top ranking is for French sponsors, all of whom harbour hopes of selection for the Tour de France each year. The Tour is for almost any team the ultimate goal, but will always hold particular importance for local sponsors seeking maximum exposure in France.

Team breakdown for France

Spain & Portugal: Still a force

Despite the crisis of sponsorship that seems to have struck Spain over the last few seasons, the combined forces of the Iberian Peninsula is still able to boast six teams in Division I and four in Division II. Interestingly, the trend in Spain has been one that is tending to move away being dominated by large corporations to a situation where governments of the autonomous regions and provinces are taking a leading role in taking up the slack. But one thing is certain: the landscape of Iberian cycling has been altered significantly this season with the departure of long-time sponsors ONCE and the back seat position of Banesto. With these changes in sponsorship, the emergence of a strong Euskaltel-Euskadi and the new Division I Saunier Duval squad, it is no longer a simply a question of deciding between ONCE and Banesto when electing the best Iberian team.

Team breakdown for Spain

USA part 1 - men's teams: Wide open road

With Saturn's exit from cycling sponsorship after 12 years' involvement, one or two riders like Tom Danielson have landed contracts with big European teams, while most, largely through circumstance, will continue to race in the United States with other domestic teams. What this will most likely mean is a much more even domestic racing scene this year in the US - for the men, teams such as Navigators, Colavita-Bolla, Health Net, Jelly Belly and Webcor, among others, are now all in with a chance at winning a number of the major events, such as Redlands and Sea Otter, Tour of Georgia, USPRO Championships, New York City Cycling Championships, San Francisco GP (T-Mobile GP), as well as races on the Pro Cycling Tour.

Team-by-team analysis for the US men's circuit

USA part 2 - women's teams: Can anyone beat T-Mobile?

With Saturn's exit from cycling sponsorship after 12 years' involvement, one or two riders have landed contracts with European teams like Team SATS or Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung, while most of the women, largely through circumstance, will continue to race in the United States with other domestic teams. The team most likely to benefit from Saturn's departure is T-Mobile, however, other teams like Rona-Esker, Genesis Scuba, Basis-Aude and Quark could well prevent the predicted whitewash caused by the women in pink and black.

Team-by-team analysis for the US women's circuit