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Tour de France News for July 2, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Botero: the invisible man

With Paolo Savoldelli and Cadel Evans out of the line up, Team Telekom is down to two of its four planned leaders for the Tour. While Alexandre Vinokourov has proven his talents in several big races this season, most recently the Tour de Suisse, co-leader and new recruit Santiago Botero (ex-Kelme) has been something of a mystery. Botero chose to follow his habitual plan, which has meant he has rarely been seen by the European peloton this season, and even by his own team.

"When he signed with us, Botero insisted on keeping the same preparation as in previous years, that is to stay in Colombia until May and to resume competition at that time, in Spain," team manager Walter Godefroot commented in a Reuters interview. "It worked in previous years, so we agreed."

Nonetheless, Botero remains a question mark in Godefroot's eyes. "I cannot say I know him well," he said. "I have hardly seen him race this season and he was sick during the Tour of Germany. He came back at the Volta a Catalunya, and even if my assistant Frans Van Looy found him to be a bit heavy, I think he'll be good for the Tour!"

"It's true that it's annoying not to be able to count on Savoldelli, nor Evans, but with Botero and Vinokourov and some very good teammates, we still have the capability to cause some trouble."

Moncoutié looking at GC

David Moncoutié (Cofidis), 13th overall and best French rider of the 2002 Tour, has high hopes for an even better result in 2003. At the same time, the Cofidis climber knows that he has his work cut out for him and looks forward to helping David Millar along the way.

"Last year I finished 13th overall and I know that it will be hard to do better," Moncoutié said in a l'Equipe interview. "To crack the top ten there's a big step to take; it's not just a matter of moving up three or four places, but to reach a new level, that of the best."

Moncoutié began to show his best form with a mountaintop win on the final day of the Route du Sud this month, and claimed the Mont Faron stage early this year in the Tour Med. Illness and allergies sidetracked the rider in the spring months, as well as at the Dauphiné Libéré, but Moncoutié hopes to hit his best form for the Tour.

He also has simple pleasures which inspire him in competition. "I like to surprise people," he said. "What I like in the mountains is to pass the most riders possible. That's why sometimes I attack from the back of the group, because I get a lot of joy in passing the others."

Moncoutié will ride as co-leader for Cofidis along with Millar, who himself showed improved climbing form at the Dauphiné, where he finished third overall, on top of his usual time trial talents.

Tour landmark commemorated

A plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first Tour de France was placed on the walls of the old Réveil Matin Tuesday in Montgeron, just south of Paris. The same site will welcome the 2003 Tour on the first road stage this Sunday, following a neutral ride from the Stade de France through Paris to the historic landmark in Montgeron.

"It was 100 years ago, at 3:16pm according to reports, that sixty riders, sixty pioneers began what was considered to be insanity: doing the Tour de France by bike," commented Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc.

A number of Tour icons were present at the ceremony, including five-time winner Bernard Hinault, Bernard Thévenet, Laurent Fignon, and Joop Zoetemelk. Victor Cosson, third in the 1938 Tour, also joined the festivities along with France's hope for the new generation, Sandy Casar.

Brioches changes colours

The Brioches La Boulangère team will be sporting new jerseys at the Tour de France, in an effort to reduce confusion in the peloton. The all red La Boulangère uniforms have been repeatedly confused for the Saeco team, by both race commentators and team directors alike. A new jersey featuring white sleeves and shoulders will replace the older all-red version.

"It was causing problems with the race directors who called the wrong directeurs sportifs in the case of a puncture," La Boulangère director Philippe Raimbaud told l'Equipe. "Thus it made sense to make a change which would guarantee safety in the race and be more effective in terms of communication."

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