By Andrew Hood
Phonak will approach the 2005 Tour de France covering its bets with three team leaders, playing its cards behind the collective strength of Santiago Botero, Oscar Pereiro and Floyd Landis.
According to team manager John Lelangue, Phonak is confident that at least one of their leading threesome will bubble their way to the top of the Tour heap.
“I’m pretty sure we can have one of the riders in the top five, and the podium would be perfect,” Lelangue told VeloNews. “The main objective is the GC, not winning stages, not chasing other classifications. The main objective is to be as far as possible in the overall classification and to go on the top.”
Lelangue was sounding confident following solid performances at the Dauphiné Libéré highlighted by the re-born Botero, who won two stages and finished second overall, just 11 seconds behind winner Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel).
Lelangue is even more confident in Landis, whom he believes could be the revelation of this year’s Tour.
“I think he has the potential to be on the Tour de France podium,” he asid. “I also know the Tour is very difficult and we have to consider what could happen in three weeks, so you can’t afford to have one bad day.”
Lelangue said he’s impressed with Landis’s demeanor both on and off the bike; something he says is reflective of the team’s overall attitude.
“He’s laughing and we don’t have any pressure, to work with him is a pleasure. Even in the radio, when he has a puncture, he’s smiling, joking, no problem, no stress,” Lelangue said.
“He’s already stepping up as a leader. He is already taking decisions, speaking during the team briefing, we are speaking together to make the composition of the team, helping out with other decisions,” Lelangue continued. “He’s spent the past four years as a teammate, so he learned what it takes to be good a leader.”
Cancellara has yellow fever
Fabian Cancellara hopes to start this year’s Tour de France just like he did last year’s – with a run in yellow.
The Swiss star is taking aim once again on the opening day’s festivities that he hopes will conclude with him once again in the maillot jaune.
“This year the priority is again the prologue,” he told Eurosport. “I don’t have any ambitions for the overall ranking but I think I can find some opportunities as part of a breakaway too one day. It’s going to be my second Tour and with the experience gained last year, I think this time round it’s going to be even better.”
The Tour kickoff this year at 19km is much longer than a typical prologue of 6-8km, a change that Cancellara has no problems with at all.
“The good thing is that it is longer,” he said. “I’m good on short distances, like last year, but in my eyes this one is even better. In a way it’s more of a time-trial than a prologue. Prologues are usually seven or eight kilometers. This year, it’s a special distance, and it’s also on an island. I’m going to take my chances and give it my best shot.”