US Postal Announces Tour de France Team
Armstrong has selected the eight team members who will help him claim his sixth Tour win.
Ekimov will start his 14th Tour de France - missing only one Tour since 1990 when his 1999 team failed to be selected - while Hincapie will take part in his ninth Tour, having finished the last seven.
Bruyneel also told Roadcycling.com that, "I also looked to two guys you always know will be there - George and Eki. George even added support in the mountains last year. Eki will play his usual role in the team time trial and on the flat and rolling stages."
For the final two spots, Bruyneel selected Padrnos based on experience and Noval on fitness. "For Pavel, I choose him for his experience," said Bruyneel. "It was not an easy choice between Pavel and Benoit. For those two, they are basically in the same condition but I went with the experience of Pavel. As for Noval, I selected fitness over experience. This will be his first Tour but he has raced in three
Bruyneel went on to add that not selecting Joachim, a member of the USPS' winning effort in 2000 and 2002, and Pena, who became the first Colombian to wear the yellow jersey in last year's Tour, was a difficult one.
"Not selecting Benoit and Victor was a difficult choice as both of them were ready," said Bruyneel. "I had to make sure we had a balanced team and I hope I made the right choice. I am confident I did, but it's hard, as they are very disappointed not to have made the team. Everybody wants to go to the Tour, but I have to stand by my decision."
Bruyneel said he consulted with Armstrong about the team's roster for the Tour and that the Texan agreed with his decision...
"I talked with Lance about the selection. He didn't want to make any decisions and agreed with my choices. He has a lot of confidence in this team. We have six riders from last year and two new guys - although Azevedo was always guaranteed a spot. Lance is confident he has a strong team and now it's up to him to be ready. His form is coming. This year, things were planned a little different. The Tour route is different, with the mountains coming so late, so we are trying to have everyone reach top shape right at the start of the Tour, maybe even a bit later. It's not easy to plan but I think we calculated it well and the guys have confidence that their form is coming."
2004 USPS Tour De France roster:
Lance Armstrong (USA)
Jose Azevedo (POR)
Manuel Beltran (ESP)
Viatcheslav Ekimov (RUS)
George Hincapie (USA)
Floyd Landis (USA)
Benjamin Noval (ESP)
Pavel Padrnos (CZE)
Jose Luis Rubiera