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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for May 5, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
A case for Coast
Comment by Jeff Jones
After the announcement last Thursday of the five remaining wild cards for this year's Tour de France, it is not too late for the Tour de France organisers to consider an 22nd team for the race. At the time, Jean-Marie Leblanc left the door open for Marco Pantani and is Mercatone Uno team, should he win the Giro d'Italia. He may have been joking, as Pantani has about as much chance of winning the next Giro as he does of winning the Tour de Romandie, which he is not actually riding.
The Tour accommodated an extra team last year, increasing the number from 20 to 21 without causing any catastrophes. Perhaps they should keep that slot open for a team that has performed consistently this year, and is currently ranked in 10th place in Division I, ahead of all of the other teams that were given wild card selections. That team is the German/Spanish Team Coast, which has (amongst other riders) an in-form Alex Zülle, the Swiss rider who has finished second in the Tour de France on two occasions, and has won two stages.
Today Zülle showed strong signs of his former best, when he sprinted to victory in the snow covered mountain top finish at Leysin, in stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie. Zülle would possibly have the overall lead now, were it not for a crash in stage 1. Zülle also won the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in February, and would surely give it his best shot if invited to the Tour de France.
Team Coast has other talented riders, including sprinter Thorsten Wilhelms, who has won several races already this year, and is back in form after breaking his shoulder blade in the Volta ao Algarve. Then there are experienced Tour campaigners Manuel Beltran and Fernando Escartin, as well as Danes Frank Hoj and Lars Michaelsen, and of course the 2001 Vuelta Espańa winner Angel Casero.
Casero, who will miss the upcoming Giro due to a knee operation, said after the announcement that "I am disappointed at not going to the Tour, because after the operation and having to forego the Giro I really wanted to participate in the Tour. But they have thought more of the French, the patriotism, than in the spectacle."
Team director Juan Fernandez said that although he respected the decision, he did not consider it just, "...since in that race 22 teams are perfectly acceptable. The Tour reserves the right to invite whoever they want and I accept that. What we have to do is to work to gain that position without needing to depend on invitations. They had to act within their political and sporting criteria."
Fernandez proposed that there should be 25 teams of eight riders, with the option of changing one of them in the first week in case of injury (now that's novel).
It's true that the Socičtč does not select its teams on the basis of sporting performance, and there are good cases for each of the teams that were selected this year. However, Team Coast hasn't really done anything wrong this year, and would more than likely repay the organisers' faith.
2001 Tour declared 'doping free'
The Conseil de Prevention et Lutte contre le Dopage (CPLD) has declared that the 2001 Tour de France was free from doping, after analysing the results of the drug tests carried out during the Tour. Last year just after the Tour, CPLD president Boyon caused a minor furore when he said that there were 43 instances of forbidden products found in rider samples. However - months after the Tour finished - it seems as though this has been discounted.