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90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003
By Tim Maloney
(OCTOBER 27, 2002): Cyclingnews spoke to Lance Armstrong following his return home to Austin, Texas after a quick trip to Paris, France for the 2003 Tour de France presentation and a special dinner the evening before honoring all the living Tour de France winners. "It was a huge honor to be there with 21 Tour de France winners together," Armstrong told Cyclingnews. "Forty Tour wins in all...!" Armstrong further explained to French sports daily L'Equipe that "(attending the dinner) was truly a pleasure and an honor for me to share that moment."
As for the 2003 Tour de France, Armstrong explained to Cyclingnews that "I think this is a traditional Tour, actually. It's back to focusing the key mountain days in the middle. The biggest difference (next year) is that there are only 3 actual uphill finishes which doesn't suit us necessarily. I like the route though. It has an enormous amount of historical perspective while also being very modern."
Lance's bottom line: "Like I always say, the Tour de France changes every year, but in the end the results are pretty consistent, and that is that the best man normally wins."
Armstrong's interview with L'Equipe's Jean-Pierre Bidet, published last Friday following the Tour presentation, also revealed additional perspectives about the four-time consecutive Tour winner's take on his quest for the fifth in a row.
"(US Postal) is going to have some work to do next spring. So long as you're not out there getting a sense of the route, the sharpness of the curves, the direction of the wind, (the parcours) is just a drawing on paper."
Stage 4 / Team time trial:
"For (USPS), I'm the only one who obsesses about it. For the others it just makes them nervous. They don't want to suffer in front of their teammates, and most of all they don't want to fail. So it's important, you can lose minutes. And if you arrive at l'Alpe d'Huez with a deficit of several minutes, it's not the same..."
Stage 8 / l'Alpe d'Huez:
Stage 9 / Col d'Izoard (north face):
22 teams of nine riders will be selected for the 2003 Tour de France. The selection will take place over three rounds in accordance with the new UCI rules for the three Grand Tours. 14 teams will automatically qualify at the end of October, 2002 based on the end of season UCI rankings. Then four wild cards will be select at the end of January 2003, after the registration of the new trade teams (e.g. Quick Step-Davitamon). Finally, four more wild cards will be chosen on May 15, which according to the organisers "will take into account the sporting results obtained by the potential teams."
Assuming no changes to the teams rankings based on the last UCI classification, and taking into account the teams that are stopping at the end of the season, the following 14 teams are automatically qualified for the 2003 Tour:
The next four teams on the list are Saeco-Longoni Sport, Lampre-Daikin, Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo, and Phonak Hearing Systems. Saeco and Lampre will therefore be looking for points in this Sunday's Japan Cup to ensure automatic qualification. Also noteworthy is the fact that Mario Cipollini's Acqua e Sapone team, which may or may not exist next year in its current form, has not automatically qualified.
The final point to note is that yet again, only one French Division I team, Cofidis, has qualified. FDJeux.com, Jean Delatour, Credit Agricole, Ag2R Prevoyance, Bonjour (and possibly BigMat if it continues) will all be vying for those final eight spots. In theory then, the organisers could include seven French teams and two other foreign teams.