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Commentary: Leblanc’s wild-card picks devalue the Tour

In selecting two more French teams and excluding Mercatone Uno and Mercury-Viatel, Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc has devalued this year’s 88th Tour. Wednesday morning in Paris, Leblanc announced five wild-card selections — not four as originally scheduled — to create a field of 21, nine-man teams that will contest the race, July 7-29. The “new” teams are BigMat-Auber 93 and La Française des Jeux of France; CSC-World Online of Denmark; Euskaltel-Euskadi of Spain; and Lotto-Adecco of Belgium. “To invite 21 teams is a circumstantial measure,” said Leblanc, in explaining that French

Moninger, Jeanson jump to Gila leads

The Tour of the Gila stage race got underway in Silver City, New Mexico, with a 15.7-mile time trial contested under typical windy conditions. On day 1 of the five-day race, Mercury’s Scott Moninger and Rona’s Genevieve Jeanson jumped out to the early race leads. Moninger beat Saturn’s Eric Wohlberg by 36 seconds on the out-and-back course that featured a climb on the way out and the way back. 7UP-Colorado Cyclist’s Doug Ziewacz and Clark Sheehan took third and fourth, respectively. In all, the top eight consisted of three 7UPs, three Saturns and two Mercurys before Landis-Trek-VWs Scott

Zberg ends Telekom’s run at Frankfurt

Five years after his brother Beat won here, Marcus Zberg (Rabobank) of Switzerland ended Telekom's two-year home monopoly to win the Frankfurt Grand Prix on Tuesday ahead of Italy's Davide Rebellin (Liquigas) and Kurt Van de Wouwer (Lotto-Adecco) of Belgium. Zberg and Rebellin made the decisive move 70km from the finish as they broke away from a group of ten riders, which included last year's winner Kai Hundertmarck (Telekom), while ascending Mammolshainer, a climb leading to the Taunus mountains. On the final approach a fresh looking Zberg beat off Rebellin while Van de Wouwer put

Navigators close again at Circuit des Mines

The Navigators came knockin’ all week long, but never quite got the door down at the Circuit des Mines in France, April 26-May 1. On the final stage, Tuesday’s stage 8 112.3km road race in Hayange, the American team’s Russian connection of Vassiliy Davidenko and Oleg Grishkine took second and third, respectively, behind Robert Sassone (Cofidis) of France. For Davidenko, it was his fourth podium finish of the race, to go along with second place on stage 2 and third place on stages 3 and 5. In the overall, Great Britain’s Chris Newton (British National) took the race lead after then-race leader

Tour de France wild-card picks: Surprises in store?

While America is asleep Wednesday morning, six French officials from the Société du Tour de France will be meeting in Paris for a couple of hours to select the final teams that will contest this year's Tour. By 11 a.m. local time, at the Maison du Nord-Pas de Calais in the 9th Arondissement, their director, Jean-Marie Leblanc, will address a news conference, announcing the four wild-card picks -- or will it be five? When Leblanc revealed the first 16 teams in January (see list below), he said that the number of starters at the 88th Tour de France would, as last year, be limited to 180 -- 20

Pate second at U23 Tour of Flanders

The U.S. national team placed two riders in the top 10 of the Under-23 Tour of Flanders on Sunday, with Danny Pate finishing second and Josh Thornton taking sixth place. Pate finished second to Dutchman Roy Sentjens in the 174km race over many of the same roads and climbs as the professional Tour of Flanders World Cup. The U.S. team had a total of four finishers in the race, with Brice Jones in 29th place and Pat McCarty 44th. Last Wednesday, Pate took eighth place at the French race, La Cote Picarde. The U23’s will be in action again on Tuesday, at their version of Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Armstrong is No. 2

Lance Armstrong climbed a notch in the UCI rankings, which were updated and posted on Monday. The defending Tour de France champion’s second place finish in Saturday’s Amstel Gold World Cup put Armstrong at No. 2, up from his previous ranking of No. 3. Dutch Rabobank rider Erik Dekker, who squeaked by Armstrong to win Amstel Gold, was the big mover, climbing five spots to No. 3. Fassa Bortolo’s Italian Francesco Casagrande kept his No. 1 tag, while two of his compatriots, Mario Cipollini and 1998 Tour de France winner Marco Pantani, wallow in 73rd and 179th respectively. Germany's