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No surprises – or controversy – in Discovery’s Tour line-up

The Discovery Channel team that will ride in defense of Lance Armstrong’sTour de France title will closely resemble the team he took to the Tourlast year.Tailwind Sports, owner of the Discovery Channel cycling team, announcedthe composition of the team that will join Armstrong on the start linein Fromentine in 10 days. From last year’s Tour squad are- American GeorgeHincapie, Spain's Jose Luis Rubiera, Manuel Beltran and Benjamin Noval,Pavel Padrnos of the Czech Republic, and Portugal's Jose Azevedo.The two “new” members of the team bring a wealth of grand tour experiencewith them as

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By VeloNews Interactive

Armstrong says he has the best back-up he's ever had

Armstrong says he has the best back-up he’s ever had

Photo: Graham Watson

The Discovery Channel team that will ride in defense of Lance Armstrong’sTour de France title will closely resemble the team he took to the Tourlast year.Tailwind Sports, owner of the Discovery Channel cycling team, announcedthe composition of the team that will join Armstrong on the start linein Fromentine in 10 days. From last year’s Tour squad are- American GeorgeHincapie, Spain’s Jose Luis Rubiera, Manuel Beltran and Benjamin Noval,Pavel Padrnos of the Czech Republic, and Portugal’s Jose Azevedo.The two “new” members of the team bring a wealth of grand tour experiencewith them as well. Italian Paolo Savoldelli won the Giro d’Italia for thesecond time this year and Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych finished third atthe 2003 Giro. Both men are first-year Discovery team members.”I think we have fielded our strongest team ever with this formation,”said Armstrong in a release issued Wednesday. “It has many consistent elementsfrom years past, like the Spanish armada for the climbs, strong guys likeGeorge, Pavel and Benjamin, the Giro winner in Savoldelli plus a guy likePopo (Popovych) with a very bright future.”I look forward to leading this team and attempting to give the greatfolks at Discovery a yellow jersey. I’m more motivated than ever.”Team manager, Johan Bruyneel, who has directed Armstrong to all sixTour victories, said the roster has great experience and familiarity tothe Texan.”I wanted an experienced team for Lance’s last Tour and that was thedetermining factor,” said Bruyneel. “I want him to be surroundedby guys who have always been around him. It’s a team with just twonew riders with the rest returning from last year. All are readyor are getting ready.””It wasn’t difficult to choose,” Bruyneel said. “The group that rodeat the Dauphine Libere (Azevedo, Beltran, Hincapie, Noval, Popovych andRubiera) showed me they are at a good level while Paolo and Pavel did agreat job in the Giro. Paolo was never in doubt (to ride the Tour),especially when he won the Giro, and is such a great rider. Paveldid a very good job in the Giro riding for Paolo and is very strong.For me, it was an easy selection.”Of the men on the squad, only Hincapie has raced alongside Armstrongfor all six Tour victories. Next is Rubiera with four (2001-2004)and Padrnos with three (2002-2004). Beltran has taken part in Armstrong’slast two Tour victories while Azevedo and Noval raced with the team forthe first time last year.”When making the selection, it’s a matter of finding a balanced team,”said Bruyneel. “I think we have guys for everywhere – the flats, thosethat will work in the hard stages and guys for the mountains.”Bruyneel only hedged a bit when asked if he agreed with Armstrong thatthis was the best Tour squad the team ever fielded.”I’ll confirm that on July 24,” said Bruyneel. “On paper, it’sa super team. But of course, we are missing (Viatcheslav Ekimov)- he would definitely be on the team if he was healthy.”Ekimov – a member of the last five Tour winning teams and possessing14 Tour finishes – severely injured his back in training crash in lateApril and is hoping to race again before the end of the season.”I will miss Eki’ dearly this time around but I plan on riding the racewith all the toughness he has shown over the years,” said Armstrong.Discovery Channel for the Tour De France
Lance Armstrong (USA)
Jose Azevedo (P)
Manuel Beltran (Sp)
George Hincapie (USA)
Benjamin Noval (Sp)
Pavel Padrnos (Cz)
Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr)
Jose Luis Rubiera (Sp)
Paolo Savoldelli (I)