By Andrew Hood
Team CSC’s Tyler Hamilton says he’s more than ready for his first Tour de France as a team leader and says he’s put everything into being prepared for Saturday’s start.
“I’m confident, but certainly not cocky. The Tour is stacked with talented riders. I know my work is cut out with me, but I will ride with the best of my ability to have a good race,” Hamilton told VeloNews on Monday. “I feel like I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be.”
Hamilton is being hyped as a possible usurper to Lance Armstrong’s Tour throne, but the 32-year-old New Englander is trying to take a more realistic approach to what will be his Tour debut as top dog.
“Everybody wants to hear a number about where I can end up, but first I need to show I can ride a good Tour. I haven’t done that before,” Hamilton said. “I have a lot to prove still. For me it’s a big Tour to prove myself that I can be among the leaders. Hopefully this is the start of many good Tours for me.”
Hamilton helped Armstrong win his first three Tours, but left U.S. Postal at the end of the 2001 season to lead Team CSC. He’s worked closely with 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis to grow from a helper into a team leader and legitimate Tour contender.
Last year, Hamilton won a stage and finished second overall at the Tour of Italy but limped into the 2002 Tour with a cracked shoulder and less than top form. This year, the Tour is the season’s top goal and he’s anxious to show he can perform at the sport’s highest levels.
“For me, I’ve never been in the top-10 in the Tour, so I’ll start with that. If I can be better, great, but I’m not putting so much pressure on myself,” he said. “I need to set realistic goals and go from there. If I have a great race and everything clicks and the form is where it’s capable of being, maybe I can even do better. I have to wait and see on the road. I also prefer to talk with my legs.”
Earlier this season, Hamilton enjoyed superb form to become the first American to win Liége-Bastogne-Liége and then the Tour of Romandie.
Hamilton said he’s been training hard in Spain and Italy since the Dauphiné Libéré in mid-June, which he said was purely a preparation race. He’s especially focused on motor-pacing to bring up his leg speed going into the Tour.
“I believe I’m ready. I’m hoping to gain a little more form in the first week of the Tour and enter the second half of the race at peak form,” he said. “I feel a lot fresher, both mentally and physically. It’s better to be strong at the second half of the Tour than the first half.”
Hamilton is traveling with CSC teammates to preview the team time trial course near St. Dizier before heading to Paris for Saturday’s opening prologue. He said the mood is up.
“I’ve worked incredibly hard to be ready,” he said. “This is my seventh Tour, but this is really the first year that I’ve been able to give it a go at 100 percent. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Six Americans to start Tour
With the inclusion of Floyd Landis into the U.S. Postal Service lineup, there will be six Americans starting the 2003 Tour de France.
Landis, George Hincapie and, of course, Lance Armstrong will be starting on Postal while Tyler Hamilton will be leading Team CSC and Levi Leipheimer will be the main GC rider at Rabobank. Fred Rodriguez will be hunting for stage wins at Caldirola-Sidermec.
Guerini, not Julich, replacing Savoldelli at Telekom
Telekom’s Paolo Savoldelli won’t be starting the Tour de France and will be replaced by Italian Giuseppe Guerini, not American Bobby Julich.
Savoldelli, a winner of last year’s Giro d’Italia, is suffering from stomach problems from last week and called team officials to tell them he’s simply not strong enough to race the Tour.
“It makes no sense to take part in such a difficult race if I’m ill,” said Savoldelli.
Guerini, a winner at Alpe d’Huez (victim of the infamous “moron photographer” in 1999) and second overall at last week’s Tour de Suisse, was tapped ahead of Julich to fill the spot.
Julich is missing the Tour for the first time since his 1997 debut and will prepare for September’s Vuelta a España and October’s road world championships.
Wadecki out, Bramati in for Quick Step; Llorente OK for Kelme
Polish rider Piotr Wadecki is sidelined with bronchial pneumonia and won’t be starting for Quick Step-Davitamon. Davide Bramati, a veteran of four Tours, will be taking his place. At Kelme, Spanish rider Pascual Javier Llorente will start despite crashing in Sunday’s national championships. Kelme is already racing without the services of star Oscar Sevilla and sprinter Isaac Galvez. Saeco overlooks Quaranta for Tour
Team Saeco announced its Tour de France lineup, with the surprise news that sprinter Ivan Quaranta won’t be at the start line Saturday in Paris. Quaranta missed the Giro d’Italia in part because the team wanted more support for eventual winner Gilberto Simoni.
The team comes with a similar approach as Simoni enters the Tour with strong hopes of challenging Lance Armstrong in the high mountains and have chosen German rider Jorg Ludewig over Quaranta. The team is bringing along sprinter Salvatore Commesso as well as Danilo Di Luca to hunt for stages.
Team Saeco for the Tour
Danilo Di Luca
Bettini tops latest UCI rankings
Italian Paolo Bettini (Quick Ste) has grabbed the world No. 1 ranking for the second this season. In the latest UCI rankings, Bettini moved slightly ahead of perennial number one Erik Zabel (Telekom). Bettini moved ahead of Zabel after winning Milan-San Remo in March, but Zabel continued to rake in points and moved back to the top spot in the last rankings to be released before the end of the Tour de France.
American Lance Armstrong (USPS) sits fifth overall while Tyler Hamilton (CSC) is 18th overall. Fassa Bortolo nudged ahead of Saeco in the team rankings while U.S. Postal continued its slow climb upward and moved 21st among Division I teams.
UCI overall rankings (previous ranking) as of June 29:
1. (3) Paolo Bettini (I), Quick.Step-Davitamon, 2,095 points
2. (1) Erik Zabel (G), Team Telekom, 2,053
3. (2) Gilberto Simoni (I), Team Saeco, 1,997
4. (4) Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, 1,887
5. (6) Lance Armstrong (USA), US Postal, 1,797
6. (5) Dario Frigo (I), Fassa Bortolo, 1,679
7. (7) Robbie McEwen (Aus), Lotto-Domo, 1,550
8. (8) Joseba Beloki (Sp), ONCE, 1,414
9. (10) Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, 1,402
10. (9) Roberto Heras (Sp) US Postal, 1,346Americans in top 200(or real close)
18. (18) Tyler Hamilton, Team CSC, 1,130
124. (109) Fred Rodriguez, Caldirola-Sidermec, 405
180. (110) Levi Leipheimer, Rabobank, 312
188. (225) George Hincapie, USPS, 306
202. (208) Tom Danielson, Saturn, 276
203. John Lieswyn, 7UP-NutraFig, 275
Rankings so far in 2003
1. (1) Simoni, 1,630 points
2. (9) Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), Team Telekom, 1,127
3. (2) Iban Mayo Diez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 1,016
4. (3) Bettini, 988
5. (3) Petacchi, 955
6. (4) Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola, 941
7. (5) Tyler Hamilton, 924
8. (6) Frigo, 902
9. (10) Zabel, 846
10. (8) Rebellin, 768Team rankings for Division I
1. (2) Fassa Bortolo, 5,288 points
2. (1) Team Saeco, 5,239
3. (4) Team Telekom, 4,706
4. (3) Quick.Step-Davitamon, 4,650
5. (5) Rabobank, 3,525
6. (6) Gerolsteiner, 3,359
7. (11) iBanesto.com, 3,134
8. (9) Team CSC, 3,126
9. (7) Alessio, 3,044
10. (13) Cofidis, 3,036
21. (23) USPS, 2,279