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Friday, July 2, 1999 Published at 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK

Tour team guide

Everybody wants to join the leader in Paris at the Tour's end

Twenty teams have been selected for the Tour, although two have been excluded after the organisation said they failed to satisfy two conditions.
  • A commitment to sport morality
  • The non-involvement in a disciplinary or judiciary procedure linked to doping

Initially that meant no TVM, despite their position as one of the best five teams in the world this year.

Le Tour de France
It also excluded a number of individual Frenchmen, including top star Richard Virenque, although he has since been allowed to compete.

So has ONCE team manager Manolo Saiz, who joined Virenque in a sucessful appeal to the sport's governing body.

Credit Agricole manager Roger Legeay: The Tour will still excite despite the absences
An invitation to the Vini Caldirola-Sidermec was also withdrawn after one of their riders failed a red blood cell test.

These are the teams and riders expected to turn up for "le depart" in Puy de Fou, although anything could still happen between now and 3 July.

Cofidis (France)

  • Contender: Bobby Julich (US)
  • Climber: Christophe Rinero (Fra)
  • Absentees: Phillippe Gaumont (Bel), Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel)

Julich took third in last year's Tour, while Rinero provided France with something to cheer by taking the King of the Mountains prize.

[ image: Bobby Julich: Podium finish in 1998]
Bobby Julich: Podium finish in 1998
The American has promised to be more daring in search of the yellow jersey while Rinero will have the support of all of France.

But rivals will watch both more closely this time and the team will need good back up to achieve its aims.

Among those selected are Laurent Desbiens, who wore the yellow jersey in last year's race.

Rabobank (Netherlands)

  • Contender: Michael Boogerd (Ned)
  • Stage contenders: Leon Van Bon (Ned), the Beat Zberg (Swi)
  • Sprinter: Robbie McEwan (Aus)
Winners of more races than any other team during the early part of 1999, the orange-clad squad are led by Dutch champion Boogerd, his country's most promising rider in a decade.

[ image: Rabobank: Dutchmen in orange]
Rabobank: Dutchmen in orange
Fifth place in last year's Tour was followed by a puncture denied him a realistic chance of victory in the world championships.

He has returned stronger still this year, and could challenge for the podium or even the win.

Van Bon heads a long list of potential stage-winners for the team that won Britain's event, the Prutour, in May.

Mapei-Quick Step (Italy)

  • Contenders: Pavel Tonkov (Rus), Axel Merckx (Bel)
  • Sprinter: Tom Steels
  • Stage contenders: Daniele Nardello (Ita) and others
The world's top team of recent years have one major item missing from their list of wins, with the Tour usually lower on their list of priorities than one-day races and the Giro d'Italia.

[ image: Tom Steels (right) winning a stage last year]
Tom Steels (right) winning a stage last year
But 1999 sees them bring a genuine contender to the French start - Tonkov knows what it takes to win a three-week Tour and is an outside bet.

There is also Merckx, the son of five-times Tour winner Eddy who finished in the top 10 last year, and 1998 stage winner Nardello.

Steels will aim for sprint victories and the green jersey, having won four stages during last year's race.

ONCE-Deutsche Bank (Spain)

  • Contender: Abraham Olano (Spa)
  • Climber: Peter Luttenberger (Aut)
  • Absentees: Laurent Jalabert (Fra)
The leading Spanish team are reluctantly at the Tour after seeing manager Manolo Saiz reinstated following an initial attempt to exclude him.

[ image: ONCE: Spanish lottery is sold from green boxes]
ONCE: Spanish lottery is sold from green boxes
But world no 1 Jalabert is still absent after falling out with the French authorities.

World time trial champion Olano will lead the team but will need to climb better than in recent years to have a hope of winning.

Luttenberger also looks for the form that took him to fifth in the 1996 Tour.

US Postal Service (US)

  • Contender: Lance Armstrong (US)
  • Climber: Jonathan Vaughters (US)
  • Sprinter: George Hincapie (US)
The tradition of a top US team taking part in the Tour is now well established and Armstrong has set the race as his top 1999 target.

[ image: George Hincapie]
George Hincapie
If determination is the key, he should probably be made favourite after his recovery from cancer.

Success in the Tour, where close friends Kevin Livingston and Frankie Andreu will back him up, would give him the recognition his efforts deserve back home.

Hincapie will look for stage wins while Vaughters is one of many capable of supporting Armstrong in the mountains.

Deutsche Telekom (Germany)

  • Sprinter: Erik Zabel (Ger)
  • Contender: Giuseppe Giurini (Ita)
  • Absentees: Jan Ullrich (Ger), Bjarne Riis (Den)

The Tour winners of 1996 and 1997 have had a disastrous build-up to this year's race, with former winners Riis and Ullrich both injured.

[ image: Erik Zabel: Aiming for fourth green jersey]
Erik Zabel: Aiming for fourth green jersey
The Dane fell off his bike while riding to the start of a stage of the Tour of Switzerland, while the young German injured his knee in a fall at his home tour earlier in June.

Top domestiques Jens Heppner and Rolf Aldag are also on the sick list, while the team has spent the past few weeks strenuously denying drug allegations in the German press.

But they still have Erik Zabel, who aims for a fourth points jersey in the bunch sprints and Guerini, who will be allowed to challenge for the top 10.

Kelme-Costa Blanca (Spain)

  • Contender and climber: Fernando Escartin (Spa)
  • Climbers: Almost the rest of the team
The sportswear company is the longest-serving sponsors in world cycling, backed by the well-known Spanish coastal area.

[ image: Fernando Escartin]
Fernando Escartin
The team works best in the mountains, with Escartin their main hope, although he lacks the time trialling ability to win the whole event.

Compatriots Roberto Heras, Javier Rodriguez and Santiago Botero provide the back-up but will all struggle on the relatively flat route.

Chepe Gonzalez continues the fine tradition of Columbian climbers, and has been a loyal servant of the Spanish team.

Mercatone Uno-Bianchi (Italy)

  • Climber: Stephane Garzelli (Ita)
  • Absentee: Marco Pantani (Ita)
Just how much of a one-man team this outfit is will be tested during this year's Tour, with Pantani deciding against a Tour defence.

Garzelli will take team leadership, and he will provide a familiar sight, since he is almost as small and bald as the Italian legend.

His similar racing style leaves the team in no need of a change of tactics, but he must rely on a stage win rather than the whole Tour.

The team possesses plenty of other strong climbers who could also relish the freedom offered by Pantani's absence.

Polti (Italy)

  • Contenders: Richard Virenque (Fra), Ivan Gotti (Ita)
  • Stage contender: David Rebellin (Ita) Polti's gamble of signing Virenque fresh from the Festina scandal has already paid off with the publicity given the controversial Frenchman even before the Tour's start.

    [ image: Virenque: Allowed back in to the party]
    Virenque: Allowed back in to the party
    But now he will have to deliver a good ride, to convince sceptics that he can succeed in cycling's supposedly drug-free, brave new world.

    Polti have enjoyed a major win this season, albeit fortuitously as Gotti inherited the Tour of Italy from the excluded Marco Pantani.

    Virenque also delivered them a mountain stage in the Giro but made little impact in the overall standings in Italy.

    Saeco-Cannondale (Italy)

    • Sprinter: Mario Cipollini (Ita)
    • Contenders: Laurent Dufaux (Swi), Paolo Savoldelli (Ita)
    One man dominates this team's Tour thinking, with Cipollini again favourite for the bunch sprints in the Tour's first week.

    [ image: Mario Cipollini]
    Mario Cipollini
    Expect plenty of showmanship from the Italian star but do not be surprised when he climbs off his bike at the sight of the first mountain.

    After that attention will probably turn to Dufaux, the Swiss who served a seven-month ban for his involvement in the Festina affair.

    Savoldelli proved his class with a podium finish in May's Giro d'Italia, and looks a confident young performer in the mountains.

    Crédit Agricole (France)

    • Time traillist: Chris Boardman (GB)
    • Stage contenders: Stuart O'Grady (Aus), Jens Voigt (Ger), Magnus Backstedt (Swe)

    Formerly Gan and before that Z, this French team is the longstanding home of Britain's No 1 Boardman.

    [ image: Chris Boardman]
    Chris Boardman
    The 1992 Olympic gold medallist will again line up for the Tour, where his best chance for glory is the prologue on the Tour's opening day.

    Resources will then be concentrated on getting the yellow jersey, with O'Grady and France's Cedric Vasseur men who done that job in the last two Tours.

    CA have no hope of winning the Tour itself but if previous years are a guide, they will be active during all stages of the race.

    Banesto (Spain)

    • Overall contenders: Alex Zulle (Swi), Manuel Beltran (Spa)
    • Climber: Jose Maria Jimenez (Spa)

    Won the Tour five times in a row thanks to Miguel Indurain, but have struggled to replace the Spaniard since his 1996 retirement.

    [ image: Alex Zulle]
    Alex Zulle
    Zulle is the latest man to try to fill the legend's shoes, but has just served a seven-month ban for his involvement in the Festina drugs scandal.

    Climber Jimenez he had a poor Giro d'Italia and will now target the three-week tour of his own country in September.

    The Spaniards could do with a good performance from someone and Beltran recently won the Tour of Catalonia to give them some encouragement.

    Casino (France)

    • Contender: Alexandra Vinokourov (Kaz)
    • Sprinter: Jan Kirsipuu (Est) Absentee: Laurent Roux (Fra)

    Massively successful in 1998 but on a reduced budget this year after the embarrassment of Rodolfo Massi being arrested while leading the mountains competition in last year's Tour.

    Vinokourov won one of the important pre-Tour races, the Dauphine Libere, and could challenge for a high overall placing.

    Kirsipuu is a useful sprinter for the first week of the Tour across the flatlands of northern France.

    La Francaise des Jeux

    • Contender: Jean-Cyril Robin (Fra)
    • Sprinter: Jimmy Casper (Fra)
    • Stage contender: Max Sciandri (GB)
    Last year this team gambled badly on Russia's Evgeni Berzin regaining his top form of the mid-1990s.

    1999 has seen an improvement, with France's improbably-named Casper beating Erik Zabel in a succession of sprints in the new Tour of Germany.

    New acquisition Robin is the big hope for the Tour, after his top 10 finish last year with US Postal.

    And Britain's Anglo-Italian rider Sciandri is desperate for a second Tour stage win to follow his 1995 success at Saint Etienne.

    Lampre-Daikin (Italy)

    • Contender: Oskar Camenzind (Swi)
    • Sprinter: Jan Svorada (Cze)

    [ image: Oskar Camenzind]
    Oskar Camenzind
    A new team this year, but they began the year with world champion Camenzind and a number of other leading Mapei riders transferring to them.

    The Swiss is a good all-round rider who has finished 12th on the Tour.

    Svorada is a top sprinter, and won stages last year when he was only Mapei's second option for the fast stages.

    Lotto-Mobistar (Belgium)

    • Stage contenders: Jacky Durand (Fra), Andre Tchmil (Bel)

    [ image: Durand: Combative rider a year ago]
    Durand: Combative rider a year ago
    Belgium's leading team is far happier in the single-day classics than the Tour where the aim will be stage wins and an early yellow jersey.

    Tchmil, the aggressive veteran naturalised Belgian originally from the former Soviet Union is one candidate.

    New signing Durand could also shine after winning the Tour's prize for combativity last year.

    Festina (France)

    • Stage contenders: Laurent Brochard (Fra), Wladimir Belli (Ita), Laurent Madouas (Fra)
    • Absentee: Marcel Wust (Ger)

    Now the sport's most infamous name but allowed to start with most of its disgraced stars having departed after last year's drugs debacle.

    The watch company is determined to be at the head of efforts to clean up the sport and supplies the Tour's timing equipment.

    1997 world champion Brochard remains, as does sprinter Wust, but he is ruled out of the Tour through injury.

    Belli is the best hope for an overall placing, but this is now just another French team rather than a top Tour squad.

    Cantina Tollo-Alexia Alluminio (Italy)

    • Stage contenders: Bo Hamburger (Den), Roberto Sgambelluri
    • Sprinter: Nicola Minali (Ita)
    Called up to replace the Vini Caldirola team thrown off the Tour list after one of its riders failed a UCI blood test at the Tour of Switzerland.

    Hamburger and Minali have both won Tour stages, but Sgambelluri is rider to have given them their best results this year.

    Vitalicio Seguros-Grupo Generali (Spain)

    • Stage contenders: Santiago Blanco (Spa), Andrei Zintchenko (Rus)
    Spain's newest team have enjoyed an impressive season-and-a-half's racing and a number of wins on their own soil.

    They are less successful once the border is crossed and will be keen to improve that situation in the Tour.

    Look out for former Banesto rider Blanco or Zintchenko, the surprise package of last year's Tour of Spain.

    Big Mat-Aubervilliers (France)

    • Stage contenders: Lylian Lebreton (Fra), Ludovic Auger (Fra)
    • Sprinter: Jay Sweet (Aus)

    France's top division two team usually get an invite to the big party, where their aim is a stage win and surviving until the race reaches Paris.

    Most of the riders are French, with Lebreton and Auger perhaps capable of giving them a victory in a breakaway.

    Sprinter Sweet has won stages in the Tour of Britain but, if selected, knows this is a massive step-up at the age of 23.

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