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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for June 25, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
US Postal announces Tour de France team
The nine members of the US Postal Service Tour de France team were named by manager Johan Bruyneel today. Eight of them will have the job of helping Lance Armstrong try and win his fourth consecutive Tour, a feat only achieved by three riders in history.
Bruyneel had a hard choice, but it wasn't due to the lack of talent. The team has won three of the important lead up races to the Tour: GP Midi Libre (Armstrong), Criterium du Dauphine Libéré (Armstrong) and the Volta a Catalunya (Heras). In all three races, the Posties could hone their form in working for a leader.
Joining Armstrong at the start line in Luxembourg on July 6 will be fellow Americans George Hincapie and Floyd Landis, Spain's Roberto Heras and Jose Luis Rubiera, Colombia's Victor Hugo Pena, Russia's Viatcheslav Ekimov, Czech Pavel Padrnos and Luxembourg's Benoit Joachim. The depth of this team is impressive when you consider that Christian Vandevelde, Steffen Kjaergaard, Michael Barry, Chann McRae, Tony Cruz and Matthew White were all left on the bench.
"It was a tough decision to select the nine riders because we have 12 riders that are ready to ride the Tour," said Bruyneel. "However, this is without any doubt the strongest team we've put together over the last four years. Everybody is in good shape, well prepared and extremely motivated."
"I'm really confident in this team," added Bruyneel. "I've tried to select the type of riders that we will need over the three weeks, which will be a balance between flat stages, a team time trial, middle mountain stages and high mountain stages. This, together with the experience of each one, has been the main factors in the composition of the team."
Armstrong agreed, saying that "I have never been so excited about the team prior to the Tour and I've never seen such results in June," said Armstrong. "It was a great month for the team. The team's well-rounded, motivated, and experienced."
"My impression is that Lance is in the same physical condition as last year," said Bruyneel, "but that the rest of the team is better than in the past. Roberto is back on the level that we had expected him to reach. Chechu (Rubiera) will be as solid as always; we know that we can always count on him. Floyd just finished an impressive second in the Dauphine and I have a feeling that we have not seen the best of him yet."
"George, Pavel and Eki will be the motors of the team," continued Bruyneel. "They are strong all around riders and they all have great experience. Benoit will be the most motivated rider of the whole peloton at the start in Luxembourg. And Victor is back, as he was very strong in the Dauphine."
"While we are pleased with where we are as a team, we will not forget that other teams and riders have prepared for this race very well, too," finished Bruyneel. "The Tour de France is the hardest bike race in the world and we approach it with one thing always present in the back of our minds: Le Tour c'est Le Tour (The Tour is the Tour)."
More Tour teams: Fassa Bortolo, Alessio and Tacconi
With the start of the Tour in Luxembourg on July 6 fast approaching, more teams are naming their final selections, subject to last minute changes of course.
Fassa Bortolo will take Fabio Baldato, Ivan Basso, Wladimir Belli, Serguei Gontchar, Serguei Ivanov, Nicola Loda, Oscar Pozzi, Marco Velo and Marco Zanotti. A couple of good time trialists in there with Fabio Baldato always a chance in a small group sprint, and Belli and Basso as GC men.
Tacconi Sport will take a team built around Dario Frigo, with Gianluca Bortolami, Paolo Bossoni, Massimo Donati, Andrej Hauptman, Peter Luttenberger and Eddy Mazzoleni as confirmed riders, with two more to come. It's an impressive team, with a good balance.
In its first attempt at the Tour de France, Alessio will take Davide Casarotto, Daniele De Paoli, Laurent Dufaux, Ivan Gotti, Martin Hvastija, Ruslan Ivanov, Cristian Moreni and Aleksandr Shefer. The team has several good climbers and guys for the rolling stages, with Dufaux likely to be the key man for GC.