Team Phonak aims to defend second-place ProTour ranking
Defending that second-place ranking will be one of Phonak?s biggest challenges of the 2006 season, according to team owner Andy Rihs.
Phonak had a great year in 2005.
And Phonak?s big man, Floyd Landis, took ninth spot in the 2005 Tour de France.
Phonak?s performance in 2005 was all the more remarkable due to the fact that its
With Lance Armstrong absent, the 2006 Tour de France is up for grabs, and Landis and Botero have to be considered contenders.
They should benefit by the off-season Phonak acquisition of
Merckx grew up in
As for Botero, he?s aiming high. He wants to win the Tour de France. ?Being the first Colombian to win the Grande Boucle would be the greatest,? he says. He is ?training harder than ever before? to achieve this goal.
Landis, low key as ever, isn?t making predictions but does say he?s in ?better shape than last year at this time.? He plans to compete in the Tour of California in February and then enter Paris-Nice, the Criterium International and the Tour of Georgia. And he?s likely to enter the Giro d?Italia ? but as a tune-up for the Tour de France. ?I don?t think it makes sense to go for [wins in] both the Giro and the Tour de France.?
Another Phonak threat for 2006 is Victor Hugo Pena, the former Lance Armstrong lieutenant. Forced to take a long break after fracturing a thoracic vertebrae at last year?s Paris-Roubaix, he?s anxious to demonstrate his old strengths in 2006.
His main goal is the Giro d?Italia. ?I want to win in
Lelangue says Phonak is ?betting on continuity? in 2006.
There will be seven new athletes on the team in addition to Merckx. Lelangue believes he has the right mix of experienced pros and young hopefuls. ?During the scheduled 52 races [in 2006] we?ll not only climb mountains together; we also intend to move mountains.? Commenting on the 2006 Tour de France, Lelangue told Roadcycling.com that ?We go to
?The perfect mix of experienced and young riders and the right people in management positions are the reasons why we can tackle the new season with self-confidence,? adds team owner Rihs.
The Phonak team has just returned from training in