By Andrew Hood
Chris Carmichael is predicting Lance Armstrong will win his fifth consecutive Tour de France if the Texan arrives in the same form as years past.
Carmichael – Armstrong’s longtime coach and trainer – said the four-time winner is on track to arrive in top condition. The Texan is currently training at altitude in Switzerland to hone his form and will leave Thursday for Paris for the start of the 2003 Tour.
“I think if Lance is at the same condition as last year, barring incident, injury or illness, I believe he’ll win,” Carmichael told VeloNews. “I think if he’s back at that same level as last year, I don’t think someone will ride through him. If he’s not at that level, there are a lot of people who can challenge him.”
Carmichael, currently in Washington, D.C. on a book promotion tour, said Armstrong has worked harder than ever before to maintain his winning form.
“This year, he’s prepared more intensely than I’ve ever seen him for the previous Tours. If you can believe that, Lance has even greater commitment than in previous years in his Tour preparations,” Carmichael said.
Following Armstrong’s victory at the Dauphiné Libéré earlier this month, Carmichael said Armstrong needed to tweak his form by one or two percent to regain the Tour-winning form.
“Lance was getting stronger as the Dauphiné progressed. His time trial was impressive, but he wasn’t in top Tour shape at the start of the race. He was in very good shape, but you could see he could be attacked,” Carmichael said, referring to strong attacks in the mountains by Euskaltel’s Iban Mayo.
“I would expect to see him to get 1 to 2 percent gains in his form following the Dauphiné and the start of the Tour. It makes a big difference. It might not sound like very much, but it’s an accumulative effect that compounds over the course of a three-week stage race,” he said. “Imagine if everyone else is at the same level. One or two percent at that level is pretty significant.”
Carmichael said Armstrong retreated to his home-base in Girona, Spain, to recover from his spill during the Dauphiné and said Armstrong will be training in Switzerland for about 10 days before departing for the Tour.
No Rasmussen, Dekker to help Leipheimer
American Levi Leipheimer won’t be counting on the help of veteran Erik Dekker or climbing specialist Michael Rasmussen as he leads Rabobank in his second assault on the Tour de France.
Rabobank announced its nine-man lineup for the Tour and Dekker and Rasmussen were both left off the team. Dekker’s been dogged with injuries since breaking his hip in the 2002 Milan-San Remo while Rasmussen crashed in a team training camp in May in the Alps, breaking his arm.
Rabobank comes with Leipheimer and Michael Boogerd as team leaders. Leipheimer will be looking to improve on his impressive eighth-place debut last year while Boogerd will be chasing stages. Two-time world champion Oscar Freire will be the team’s man in the flat stages.
Support riders include Marc Wauters, Grischa Niermann, Robert Hunter, Bram de Groot, Remmert Wielinga and Marc Lotz.
Rodriguez among pre-selected riders for Tour
American Fred Rodriguez is among 11 finalists to make the nine-man Tour de France selection for the Italian Vini Caldirola-Sidermec team. Rodriguez has raced in three straight Tours and will be keen to get back.
Also on the list are Andrej Hauptmann, Romans Vainsteins, Stefano Garzelli, Dario Andriiotto, Massimo Apollonio, Paolo Bossoni, Eddy Mazzoleni, Marco Milesa, Gianluca Sironi and Steve Zampieri.
Hamilton, Sastre to lead CSC
Tyler Hamilton and Carlos Sastre will share leadership of Team CSC, the team announced Thursday. Hamilton finished second overall in the 2002 Giro d’Italia while Sastre finished 10th in last year’s Tour. The Danish team is hoping to push one of these two riders into the top-5, perhaps even the final podium.
“This year our strategy for the Tour will be for Tyler Hamilton and Carlos Sastre to finish as far up in the general classification as possible and the selection reflects that goal,” said Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis. “We must do a good team time trial and make sure that Tyler and Carlos are protected in the mountains for as long as possible. I believe that our team is complete both when it comes to the general classification and when it comes to stage victories, should the opportunity arise. I predict that we can be one of the most important teams in this year’s Tour.”
Helping Sastre and Hamilton in the mountains will be Peron, Luttenberger and Sorensen while Blaudzun, Piil, Jalabert and Christensen will carry the load on the flats.
Team CSC for the Tour
Tyler Hamilton (USA)
Carlos Sastre (Sp)
Jakob Piil (Dk)
Nicki Sorensen (Dk)
Michael Blaudzun (Dk)
Bekim Christensen (Dk)
Nicolas Jalabert (F)
Andrea Peron (I)
Peter Luttenberger (Aut)
Still waiting on final word from Postal
U.S. Postal Service team is still waiting to announce the final rider to round out its nine-man Tour team. Last week, the team announced eight of its nine riders, with the final position to be decided among Floyd Landis, Guennadi Mikhailov or Benoit Joachim.
Landis is coming back from a hip break he suffered in January, but rode strong at the Dauphiné Libéré while Joachim is a veteran of two of Armstrong’s four Tour victories. Mikhailov is a strong rider who’s had a solid spring. American Christian Vande Velde will miss the Tour after not being selected to be among the finalists.
The Tour team so far includes Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie (USA), Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), Roberto Heras, Jose Luis Rubiera and Manuel Beltran (Sp), Pavel Padrnos (Cze) and Victor Hugo Peña (Col).
Ullrich, Casero lead Bianchi
Team Bianchi comes to the Tour with a solid lineup including 1997 Tour champion Jan Ullrich and 2001 Vuelta champion Angel Casero. Ullrich will be the only other Tour winner starting the race besides Armstrong and comes to the Tour following an injury-plagued 2002 season. Casero, also back from a disappointing 2002 season, is one of the few riders starting the Tour with a major three-week stage-race victory on their palmares.
Rounding out the team are Spanish riders Felix Garcia Casas, David Plaza and Aitor Garmendia, Germans Daniel Becke, Thomas Liese and Tobias Steinhauser and Italian Fabrizio Guidi.
Basso, Gonzalez share load at Fassa Bortolo
Vuelta a España champion Aitor Gonzalez is hoping to make up for his Giro d’Italia disappointment with a strong performance in the Tour de France. Gonzalez won a Giro time trial stage, but was never a factor in the overall battle. Gonzalez will lead the Italian Fassa Bortolo, sharing the GC role with newcomer Ivan Basso, winner of last year’s best young rider’s category.
Fassa Bortolo will have Alessandro Petacchi – a winner of six Giro stages last month — chasing sprint wins. Former mountain bike racer Dario Cioni is making his Tour debut.
Fassa Bortolo for the Tour
Ivan Basso (I)
Marzio Bruseghin (I)
Dario Cioni (I)
Nicola Loda (I)
Alessandro Petacchi (I)
Marco Velo (I)
Sven Montogmery (Swi)
Aitor Gonzalez (Sp)
Volodimir Gustov (Ukr)
Lotto adds Gates to help McEwen
Lotto has added Australian Nick Gates to help compatriot Robbie McEwen defend his green points jersey at next month’s Tour de France, Belgian media reported on Friday.
The nine-man outfit, led by sporting director Claude Criquielion for the July 5- 27 race, will be looking to Gates to set McEwen up for the sprints. McEwen won two stages last year at Reims and Paris en route to winning the green jersey for the highest-placed daily finisher.
The selection of Gates left Dutchman Aart Vierhouten and Belgium’s Thierry Marechal on the sidelines. Peter Van Petegem of Belgium, who won the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in April, has decided to give the Tour de France a miss. Lotto for the Tour
Rik Verbrugghe (B)
Axel Merckx (B)
Serge Baguet (B)
Christophe Brandt (B)
Hans De Clercq (B)
Leon Van Bon (Ned)
Koes Moerenhout (Ned)
Robbie McEwen (Aus)
Nick Gates (Aus)
One slot remains on Saeco squad
Saeco has named eight riders to its Tour team, leaving one spot remaining and three riders in contention.
Giro d’Italia winner Gilberto Simoni, the team leader, will be backed by rouleurs Paolo Fornaciari, Fabio Sacchi and Stefano Zanini; hillmen Gerrit Glomser, winner of the recent Tour of Austria, and Leonardo Bertagnolli; and Danilo Di Luca and Salvatore Commesso, who will be trying to get into breaks and win stages.
Andrea Tonti, Ivan Quaranta and Joerg Ludewig are the three riders contending for the remaining berth, which will be announced Monday.
Maier to lead out Tour prologue
Former Olympic and world champion skier Hermann Maier will lead off the Tour de France before its prologue on July 5 as part of the event’s centenary celebrations, Reuters reported Friday.
Maier will start the 6.5-km time trial at the foot of the Eiffel Tower three minutes before the first competitor. The Austrian said he had always been a cycling fan and riding a Tour stage was a dream come true. “I ride thousands of miles in training on Austrian and Italian roads and I spend many afternoons in the summer watching the Tour,” Maier said.
“I’ve achieved superb goals in my career but to open the 2003 Tour will be another climax for me,” he said. “I’m proud to take part this way in the big anniversary of the Tour.”
The former triple overall Alpine skiing World Cup champion almost lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident in August 2001 but made a remarkable comeback in January with victory in a super-G two weeks after resuming competition.
“Hermann is a great champion in his discipline and his presence on the Tour as a forerunner is an important event for us,” said Tour deputy director Daniel Baal.
American Lance Armstrong is bidding for a record-equaling fifth successive victory in the Tour.