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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for May 4, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
No Tour invite could spell end for BigMat
Stephane Heulot believes that the lack of an invitation for BigMat to ride the 2002 Tour de France will have "terrible consequences". In an interview with French website Sporever he describes Thursday's decision by the Societe du Tour de France as "the death of a team."
"I am trying to take [the decision] with a smile and find reasons to bounce back," said Heulot. "The consequences will be terrible and that frightens me more."
"Our sponsor has decided to stop at the end of the season. Today, it is more or less the death of a team. It is a sad day for us and for French cycling."
BigMat has had the affection of the French public because of its support of young French riders, but Heulot refused to criticise the STF's decision.
"I am not arguing with any choice. I notice that the selection of Italian and Spanish teams in the Giro or Vuelta never poses any problem. It always poses some in France.
"It is a pity because the sky of French cycling has cleared little by little and it still does not get the chance to return to what it once was.
"They don't let all the French teams take part in the national tour on the pretext of the 'grandeur' of this race."
Heulot added, however, that the rules seems to change every year and this makes it hard for teams to achieve the level necessary to take part in the Tour.
"Last year, they encouraged the teams to go up a notch economically to join Division 1, and they promised participation in the national tour to teams that did this."
"This is what BigMat tried to do. The budget was increased and we succeeded in recruiting riders with the necessary points. Today we are in the first division and the rules have changed again.
"Things have returned to the previous situation where there are 16 qualified teams and five wild-cards.
"The rules must be observed, but they should not be changed every year."
Heulot added that as team leader he would try to help the team's younger members get over the disappointment of missing the Tour.
"I will try to give them the will to fight. The important thing now is to determine what their sporting future will be if the BigMat team disappears. It's not easy to go through these things when you are young."
"But they still have long careers and I believe what doesn't kill you makes you strong."