By VeloNews Interactive
There were no major surprises as the U.S. Postal Service team announced its line-up for the upcoming Tour de France. Joining two-time defending champion Lance Armstrong will be three Americans — Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde; Spaniards Roberto Heras and Jose Luis Rubiera; Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov; Norwegian Steffen Kjaergaard; and Colombian Victor Hugo Pena. The full text of the team’s announcement follows:
U.S. POSTAL SERVICE PRO CYCLING TEAM TOUR DE FRANCE TEAM ANNOUNCED
Choosing from what he called were 10 valid candidates, the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team’s Director Sportif, Johan Bruyneel, today announced the eight riders who will join two-time defending champion Lance Armstrong in the upcoming Tour de France.
Joining Armstrong at the start line on Saturday in Dunkerque will be Americans Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde, Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov, Roberto Heras and Jose Luis Rubiera of Spain, Norwegian Steffen Kjaergaard and Victor Hugo Pena of Colombia.
The team’s two reserve riders are Cedric Vasseur of France and Matthew White of Australia.
“It was very hard to choose the final nine who will ride the Tour,” Bruyneel said. “In my three years with the U.S. Postal Service team, the selection for our Tour de France team was never this difficult. I know the riders who did not make the team are disappointed but I had to make the decision to put together our strongest team.”
Bruyneel added that he discussed the team composition with both Armstrong and assistant Director Sportif Dirk Demol.
Due to the “concentration of five days in the mountains,” Bruyneel said a key to the USPS team’s success at the Tour will be its climbing ability, which he feels is much improved. Regarding Heras – the team’s key off season addition after winning last year’s Tour of Spain and finishing fifth at 2000 Tour – Bruyneel said, “He is ready to go. His knee is fine and he is the type of rider who does not need lots of competition to be race ready.” Along with Heras, Armstrong will look to Hamilton and Rubiera for support in the high mountains.
As for Armstrong, who is coming off an impressive victory at the Tour of Switzerland, Bruyneel said he is stronger than last year. “I feel like Lance is ready, his results are there,” Bruyneel said. “I personally think he is stronger than last year both mentally and physically. He is lighter and mentally stronger. I feel very confident, although (Telekom’s) Jan Ullrich and (ONCE’s) Joseba Beloki are well prepared as well.
“We have done everything we could do to arrive at the start in the best shape.”
2001 U.S. POSTAL SERVICE TOUR DE FRANCE TEAM Lance Armstrong (USA) Viatcheslav Ekimov (RUS) Tyler Hamilton (USA) Roberto Heras (ESP George Hincapie (USA) Steffen Kjaergaard (NOR) Victor Hugo Pena (COL) Jose Luis Rubiera (ESP) Christian Vande Velde (USA)