By Andrew Hood
A confident Tyler Hamilton says he believes he can win the Tour de France.
“No question, I’m here to win. I’m here with a strong team, we’re motivated and they expect me to do well. There’s more pressure, but I like that,” he said. “
When asked if he could be the ride to topple Lance Armstrong, Hamilton said he would give it a try.
“Lance will be stronger than last year, so we have to be stronger than last year,” said the Man from Marblehead. “Lance and I are friends off the bike, but on the bike we’re competitors.”
Hamilton said Armstrong’s troubles in 2003 give him and other rivals more motivation.
“A lot of guys are licking their lips and ready to attack,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people believe they have a chance.
When asked if he was too much of a nice guy to win the Tour, Hamilton replied: “I’ve got a mean streak in me, too.”
Riis wants more for CSC
Team CSC cleaned up in last year’s Tour, winning the team classification, three stages with three different riders and putting two into the top 10 overall.
This year, Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis said his boys in red will be on the attack.
“We have a stronger team than last year and we can do well in all terrain,” Riis said. “We want to go on the attack, we want to go on the offensive. We have a strong team and we want to make our presence felt.”
“We have big ambitions,” Riis said as Team CSC faced the world’s media in a press conference Thursday. “If it all works out, we can have Basso and Sastre in the top 10, we can win stages, we chase the yellow jersey. The team time trial is also one of our big ambitions.”
Lance starts last on Saturday
American Lance Armstrong will be the last of188 riders to begin the Tour de France opening prologue over 6.1km here onSaturday.
The 32-year-old five-time Tour champion will click into gear at 19:08 localtime (17:08 GMT) for the first of several tests in this year’s race, which hehopes to win for a record sixth time.
Preceding Armstrong by one minute is Germany’s 1997 Tour winner andfive-time runner-up Jan Ullrich, while another race contender, American TylerHamilton, is third last to go.
Last year’s prologue winner, Brad McGee of Australia, is 17th last to leavethe ramp for the short, mainly flat ride around the French-speaking Belgiancity.
The start order for the race is based on the previous year’s standings inthe general classification. —Agence France Presse
19 personalities pick podium
Nineteen personalities on the Tour deFrance, including riders, journalists and former professionals were split overwho would win this year’s race – record-chasingTexan Lance Armstrong, who has won five consecutive Tours, or Germany’s 1997winner and five-time runner-up Jan Ullrich.
Only two from the 19 believed that Armstrong’s former U.S. Postal lieutenantTyler Hamilton, now at Swiss team Phonak, would do well enough to win hisfirst yellow jersey.
Spaniard Iban Mayo, of the Euskaltel team, is also considered a Tourfavorite but was given only a few podium places. Bradley McGee (rider): 1. Armstrong; 2. Ullrich; 3. Hamilton
Jean-Patrick Nazon (rider): 1. Armstrong; 2. Ullrich; 3. Mayo
Richard Virenque (rider): 1. Armstrong; 2. Mayo; 3. Ullrich
Jean-Francois Pescheux (race official involved in designing course): 1.Armstrong; 2. Ullrich; 3. Hamilton
Jean-Pierre Danguillaume (former rider): 1. Hamilton; 2. Ullrich; 3. Mayo
Bernard Hinault (five-time Tour winner): 1. Ullrich; 2. Armstrong; 3. Hamilton
Charly Mottet (former rider): 1. Armstrong; 2. Mayo; 3. Ullrich
Raymond Poulidor (former Tour great): 1. Ullrich; 2. Armstrong; 3. Mayo
Stephen Roche (1987 Tour winner): 1. Ullrich; 2. Hamilton; 3. Mayo
Yves Hezard (former rider): 1. Ullrich; 2. Hamilton; 3. Mayo
Roger Legeay (Credit Agricole team manager): 1. Armstrong; 2. Mayo; 3. Hamilton
Francis Van Londersele (Cofidis team manager): 1. Mayo; 2. Armstrong; 3. Hamilton
Marc Madiot (team manager Fdjeux.com): 1. Ullrich; 2. Armstrong; 3. Mayo
Laurent Jalabert (former rider): 1. Hamilton; 2. Ullrich; 3. Armstrong
Ronan Pensec (TV pundit and former rider): 1. Hamilton; 2. Armstrong; 3. Ullrich
Bernard Thevenet (TV pundit and former Tour winner): 1. Ullrich; 2. Armstrong; 3. Hamilton
Thierry Cazeneuve (organizer of Dauphine Libere): 1. Armstrong; 2. Hamilton; 3. Ullrich
Patrick Cluzaud (French cycling official): 1. Armstrong; 2. Ullrich; 3. Hamilton
Jacques Augendre (journalist): 1. Ullrich; 2. Hamilton; 3. Armstrong—Agence France Presse
McGee doesn’t pick himself for prologue
Australian Bradley McGee claims he is notthe overall favorite to win the opening prologue this Saturday when the Tourde France clicks into gear with a record 10 Australians taking part.
The 28-year-old Nice-based professional, who is going for track andpossibly road glory at this year’s Olympic Games in Athens, held off Britain’sDavid Millar by the slimmest of margins last year to claim the race leader’stunic.
Cofidis rider Millar, 27, will be absent from this year’s race followinghis admission that he used the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), forwhich he has recently been formally charged.
However McGee, who rides for the Aussie-Franco flavoured Fdjeux.com teamalongside Baden Cooke and Matthew Wilson, believes that in the big Scot’sabsence the 6.1km prologue on mainly flat streets around Liege could throw upa surprise.
“I won’t necessarily be ‘the’ favorite, because I’ve changed a bit inphysical terms since last year,” said McGee, who arrives at the Tour on a highafter an excellent eighth-place finish in the Tour of Italy.
“I’ve lost about two kilos, which has helped me to climb better. I will be among the guys to beat on Saturday, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a more powerful rider, such as (Jan) Ullrich, or even a sprinter,winning the prologue.”
McGee has admitted he already has one eye on going for the Tour’s generalclassification (GC), in other words the yellow jersey – especially after hisgreat Giro showing which proved that he does have real climbing ability.
However this year he will put his own aims of GC glory on the back burneras he helps 25-year-old sprinter Cooke to retain the green jersey he fought sohard against Robbie McEwen to win last year.
“My job is to lead out Baden for the sprints, and we’ve got a good teamtogether for that. Apart from that I would like to win a stage, unless Badenreally needs a lot of help.
“If I’m going to go for a stage I will probably wait until after the firstmountains stages (in the Pyrenees) because there will likely be few chancesfor me to break away before then.”
With McGee already at home in the tough time trials, and having improvedhis climbing skills immensely after reviewing his climbing position on thebike, all he needs now to try and conquer the race’s biggest prize is a bitmore experience – and a team dedicated to the cause.
“It’s still too early for me to talk about really challenging in thegeneral classification,” he added. “I would prefer to help Baden this year than finish 15th overall. I will think about challenging for the GC as of next year.” —Agence France Presse