The Week That Was...
Ian comments on the happenings in the world of cycling.
With just days remaining before the race starts, several of the top teams have confirmed their line-ups for the forth coming Tour de France. Besides Lance Armstrong, US Postal is riding with George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Pavel Padronos, Jose Azevedo, Manuel Beltran, Jose Luis Rubiera and Benjamin Noval. Team Director Sportif, Johan Bruyneel said that he had conferred with Armstrong about the selection; ?He has a lot of confidence in this team,? said Bruyneel. ?We have six riders from last year and two new guys? Lance is confident he has a strong team and now it?s up to him to be ready. His form is coming,? added the Belgian. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
The American?s major challenge in winning his record sixth Tour will come from Jan Ullrich and his German T-Mobile team. Besides Ullrich, the other T-Mobile riders will be Erik Zabel, Andreas Kloden, Matthias Kessler, Ralf Aldag, Santiago Botero, Daniele Nardello and Giuseppe Guerini. One rider expected to ride but left at home to ?protect him? after an injury plagued 2003 is Australian, Cadel Evans. On his website, the former Mountain Bike star said, ?I?m surprised and disappointed by this decision. But I?m also frustrated that I?ve let down everyone who thought that I would take a part of this year?s Tour. At this stage, I?m not going to be there but of course I?ll keep training knowing that anything can happen in the next ten days.? Evans is now expected to refocus his attention towards the Olympic games if selected and the end of season races. This comes as a massive blow for Evans who has prepared for his Tour debut this season after three breaks of his left collarbone last year in a disastrous 5-month spell.
His non-selection has certainly got to raise a question over whether or not the rider will still be with the German squad next year especially having shown his recent form with victory in the Tour of Austria.
While Armstrong and Ullrich prepare to go head-to-head in what is undoubtedly the major show down at this years race, Basque ride Iban Mayo could well be the rider who takes advantage of this and gives both the US Postal and T-Mobile teams something to think about. Having won the recent Dauphine Libere stage race, Mayo is being tipped as a rider with the ability to cause a serious upset in this year race. Unfortunately, Mayo doesn?t have the strength within his team enjoyed by his rivals for the overall honours. ?If Armstrong, Ullrich or Hamilton take more than a minute from him in the Team Time Trial, where is Mayo going to get back that minute?? said Euskaltel-Euskadi Director, Miguel Madariaga on AS.com. ?He?ll have to attack a hundred times throughout the race and those riders will still be there.? Madariaga went on to add that, ?(Mayo) can win the Tour because he has everything to make the difference. He just lacks a bit of experience. IF he doesn?t make any mistakes, he can at least make the podium. But, don?t forget