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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Tour 2000: The teams
Peleton and sunflowers
Team support is key to overall victory
Twenty teams have been selected for this year's Tour de France, with the best 12-ranked squads plus a series of wild cards chosen to star on the biggest stage in world cycling.

Like a division of football teams, all have differing aims.

The squads with potential winners and overall contenders like Telekom, US Postal and Mercatone Uno are effectively the championship contenders.

Others come with some other glory in mind, such as victories in the bunch sprints or the mountains.

Meanwhile the low budget squads like France's Bonjour team will be happy to effectively avoid relegation by booking a place at next year's event with one small piece of glory.

In alphabetical order these are the 20 teams, along with their current world ranking with the governing body, the UCI.

AG2R Prevoyance
(Fra) 24th in world rankings

Leaders: Jann Kirsipuu (Est)

Jann Kirsipuu
Will Kirsipuu and his team pull a surprise?
The team formerly known as Casino have slipped down the rankings this season after two great years.

Last year Kirsipuu won a stage and wore the yellow jersey and this will be his main aim again.

It is hard to see who else in the squad might challenge but one thing the team are good at is springing a surprise.

(Spa) Ranked 6th

Leaders: Alex Zulle (Swi), Jose Maria Jimenez (Spa)

Banesto used to rule the Tour every year but then Miguel Indurain retired.

Veteran Zulle does not have too many chances left to improve on last year's second place.

The rest of the team will concentrate on protecting him and trying to grab a stage win.

(Fra) Ranked 28th

Leaders: Jean Cyril Robin (Fra), Francois Simon (Fra)

A brand new team, Bonjour won the battle with two other French division two squads to get in the Tour thanks to some good results in April and May.

Unlike the other French teams they are a homegrown squad without any foreign imports.

The team's sole aim will be a stage win to justify the organisers' faith.

Robin finished sixth in the Tour in 1998 while Simon won the French national championship in 1999, and the two men are the squad's best bets for success.

(Fra) Ranked 15th

Leaders: Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel), David Mouncoutie (Fra), David Millar (GB),

France's strongest team and the home of British debutant Millar.

Vandenbroucke is the biggest unknown quantity in the sport, and Mouncoutie is a young Frenchman with potential but also flaws.

It all makes for an unpredictable mix of riders in a race crucial to the sponsors - a telephone credit company.

Credit Agricole
(Fra) Ranked 19th

Leaders: Bobby Julich (US), Jonathan Vaughters (US), Stuart O'Grady (Aus),

The team's French nationality is a little misleading these days since, apart from US Postal, this is the most "English" team in the peleton.

The three leaders - and their absent colleague Chris Boardman - all share the same language and arrive with differing aims.

The team want to win the team time trial, but Julich will aim for overall success, O'Grady will challenge in the sprints and Vaughters hopes to make his mark in the mountains.

Farm Frites
(Ned) Ranked 11th

Leaders: Peter Van Petegem (Ned), Robbie McEwan (Aus), Sergei Ivanov (Rus), Servais Knaven (Ned)

Formerly TVM, this is a team whose high ranking has more to do with strong riding in the one-day classic races than any Tour aspirations.

Robbie McEwan
Will a return to the Tour bring success?
The squad returns to the Tour after being thrown out in 1998 and then banned last year.

Their aim will be to snap up stage wins through McEwan's sprinting and the opportunism of strongmen like Ivanov and Knaven.

(Fra) Ranked 20th

Leaders:Christophe Moreau (Fra), Angel Luis Casero (Spa), Marcel Wust (Ger), Joseba Beloki (Spa)

The team who started all the trouble in the 1998 Tour is now almost completely different in terms of personnel.

Sprinter Wust would love to make an impact after numerous stage wins in the Tour of Spain.

Casero surprised many with fifth in last year's Tour, while Moreau is a strong time triallist.

La Francaise des Jeux
(Fra) Ranked 23rd

Leaders:Stephane Heulot (Fra), Jimmy Casper (Fra), Grzegorz Gwiazdowski (Pol)

Like English football's Premiership, French cycling is full of imports, although FDJ's two leaders are French.

Sprinter Casper ruffled a few feathers in the sprints last year and if the curly-haired youngster can find some form then he is a potential stage winner.

Heulot wore the yellow jersey in 1996, when he quit in tears due to a knee problem.

Import Gwiazdowski is a potential stage winner after winning a round of the World Cup last year.

(Spa) Ranked 9th

Leaders: Fernando Escartin (Spa), Roberto Heras (Spa)

Kelme's mix of Spanish and Columbian climbers have been entertaining at races for over 20 years now - and there is no secret to their success.

Fernando Escartin
Kelme and Escartin will come alive on the climbs
Basically they wait for the mountains and then attack. And if that does not work they attack again.

Such tactics are a gamble and partly explain why they are technically a second division outfit. But for entertainment they are definitely first division.

(Bel) Ranked 21st

Leaders: Rik Verbrugghe (Bel), Mario Aerts (Bel), Kurt van der Wouwer (Bel), Jacky Durand (Fra)

Belgians are not as bothered about the Tour as the rest of us, since the one-day Spring classic races are more important in that nation.

So Andre Tchmil stays at home, and climbers Aerts and Van der Wouwer are asked to provide results.

Verbrugghe is a decent time triallist, and French hero Durand will aim for the combativity prize awarded to the man who stirs up the

(Ita) Ranked 1st

Leaders: Michele Bartoli (Ita), Daniele Nardello (Ita), Tom Steels (Bel), Andrea Tafi (Ita)

The richest team in cycling compete at virtually every race around the world, winning many of them.

Tom Steels
Mapei will look to Steels for stage wins
But such efforts mean that France in July is just another stop on their world tour rather than a key ambition.

One-day specialist Bartoli believes he can finish near the top but sprinter Steels and one-day specialist Tafi are equally likely to win stages.

However Nardello has the best Tour pedigree, finishing seventh in last year's race.

(Den) Ranked 14th

Leaders: Bo Hamburger (Den), Jesper Skibby (Den), Martin Rittsel (Swe)

The Danish team were set up in the euphoria which followed their countryman Bjarne Riis's 1996 Tour win.

This is their first Tour ride, and they will rely on a mixture of Scandinavian youth and experience as they go in search of stage wins.

Skibby is the experienced captain and new national champion Hamburger the team's biggest star, but it is Rittsel who has the best world ranking.

Mercatone Uno
(Ita) Ranked 16th

Leaders: Marco Pantani (Ita)

The team which normally rides in yellow will come to the Tour in pink - appropriately after Stefano Garzelli's ride to victory in the Tour of Italy's Maglia Rosa jersey.

The Italian's triumph and Pantani's return to racing after a self-imposed lay-off saved the team's season.

They now go in search of the double they achieved when Pantani won both races in 1998.

(Spa) Ranked 5th

Leaders: Laurent Jalabert (Fra), Abraham Olano (Spa), David Etxebarria (Spa)

Spain's number one team have still never won the Tour, and possess a leading pair whose chances still appear slim.

Jalabert and Olano are two of the world's best riders, but always seem to suffer at least one bad day in the mountains.

However the Frenchman has dedicated himself to Tour preparation this year while the Spaniard is leaner and fitter than in previous seasons.

Etxebarria was a double stage winner last year and will hope for similar success.

(Ita) Ranked 25th

Leaders: Richard Virenque (Fra), Jeroen Blijlevens (Ned)

While it is tempting to put Virenque into the contender bracket, it is probably unrealistic to expect French cycling's 30-year-old enfant terrible to have a crack at the real prize.

A sixth King of the Mountains title will be the aim of the man who became embroiled in the Festina affair of 1998.

Blijlevens will hope to put a poor season behind him and succeed in the sprints for his new team.

(Ned) Ranked 7th

Leaders: Michael Boogerd (Ned), Markus Zberg (Swi)

After a sparkling 1998 Tour Boogerd was one of the favourites last year.

But he never recovered from the debacle of the Passage de Gois, the coastal causeway which caused a multiple pile-up and wrecked his chances.

This year he has failed to find form and drifted out of the world top 10, but Zberg (ranked ninth) is still there and is a good hope for a stage win.

(Ita) Ranked 12th

Leaders: Laurent Dufaux (Swi), Salvatore Commesso (Ita), Paolo Savoldelli (Ita)

Dufaux's slim hopes of overall victory have increased in importance for the Italian team now that sprinter Mario Cipollini has been ruled out through injury.

The most flamboyant rider in the peloton smashed ribs and received 30 stitches in his face following a recent training crash.

Dufaux finished fourth last year, while Commesso was a stage winner and active throughout the race.

Savoldelli will hope to rebuild his repuation after flopping badly after being heralded as a favourite for the Tour of Italy.

(Ger) Ranked 2nd

Leaders: Jan Ullrich (Ger), Giuseppe Guerini (Ita), Erik Zabel (Ger), Alexandre Vinoukourov (Kaz)

Telekom team
Telekom will be keen to get their man in yellow
The German squad now ranked the best in the world has riders for all stages at the Tour.

Ullrich will challenge for the overall lead while Guerini is the star climber and Vinoukourov a rider of massive potential.

World no 2 Zabel is seeking a record fifth win in the green jersey points competition.

US Postal Service
(US) Ranked 17th

Overall contender: Lance Armstrong (US), George Hincapie (US), Tyler Hamilton (US), Vjatceslav Ekimov (Rus)

Defending champion Armstrong is confident of a second success this year.

US Postal team
A strong team is essential for a yellow jersey winner
And while he also rates Ullrich he he is worried that his own pre-Tour form has been so good he might be peaking too early.

Hamilton has matured into a strong rider having won the pre-Tour Dauphine Libere last month.

Sprinter Hincapie could win stages if he can find an extra gear while Ekimov is a superb team rider and a specialist at late breakaway stage wins.

Vini Caldirola
(Ita) Ranked 8th

Leaders: Romans Vainsteins (Lat)

After a bruising narrow defeat for current world no 1 Francesco Casagrande at the Giro de Italia, the Italian team will not be sending their strongest squad to the Tour.

However the consistent Vainsteins is also ranked in the world's top 10 and cannot be ignored for stage wins.

He is a decent sprinter and a competent climber - a fine combination for anyone looking for a starring role in July.

See also:

28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
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