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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Yates: Lance is ready to repeat
Jan Ullrich
1997 winner Ullrich has much to prove this year
British former yellow jersey-holder Sean Yates will be sharing his considerable Tour de France know-how with BBC Sport Online throughout the race.

With the three-week epic set to start on Saturday, Yates, who is now team manager of Britain's Linda McCartney Foods Cycling team, tells us who will be wearing what jersey on 23 July in Paris.

It is a case of the usual suspects this year, and Lance Armstrong is the hot favourite.

I would say his main rivals, Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani, are some way off the pace.

Sean Yates
Yates in yellow in 1994
In fact, I would rate Alex Zulle as a more realistic threat to Armstrong, as he has trained properly for this race and we all know he can time trial and climb.

Preparation

The Tour de France is all about preparation. Talent, of which all these main guys have, will not get you far in a three-week race like this.

Ullrich and Pantani are both bound to have a few bad days, Armstrong will not.

For Ullrich the problem is with his weight and his head. He just cannot seem to get into training.

We hear that he has been training hard in South Africa, that he is focused and ready for the Tour.

Lance Armstrong
Armstrong: In great shape
And then we hear he has gone home and sat in front of the TV eating biscuits for weeks. You cannot gain five kilos like that this close to the race.

Telekom (Ullrich's team) are paying him a lot of money and he just keeps delaying and delaying on when he is going to race. Now he has to produce.

For Pantani it is also a question of preparation. He has only raced once in over a year (last month's Giro d'Italia), and that is not enough.

With his fantastic ability he will able to shine on one or two days in the mountains, but he is going to lose too much time in the time trials, especially Tuesday's team event.

I think he will lose two minutes in the prologue, and between six and 10 minutes in the longer trials.

Outsiders

Alex Zulle
Switzerland's Alex Zulle could go close
As for the rest, I am not sure what kind of shape Laurent Dufaux is in, but again I do not think he can challenge Armstrong.

Richard Virenque will be a threat in the mountains, and he should win the polka dot jersey once more, but he still cannot time trial.

Laurent Jalabert, who has trained specifically for this race, will be looking for a good podium finish, but he will still suffer in the mountains.

Abraham Olano and Bobby Julich will also be vying for a top three finish, but they are not strong enough to challenge for yellow.

As for the other main prize, I think Erik Zabel is a fairly safe bet for yet another green jersey as he is bound to keep picking up those high placings.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sonia McLoughlin reports from France
Lance Armstrong is ready to defend his yellow jersey
See also:

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