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  Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Pantani not picked for Tour
Lance Armstrong (left) and Marco Pantani on the 2000 Tour de France
Pantani will not get the chance to take on Armstrong
Former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani will miss the event for the second year running because his team has not been given a wild card for the event in July.

The Societe du Tour de France on Thursday announced the list of five teams given wild cards to take part.

It includes four French teams - Ag2R-Prevoyance, Bonjour, Credit Agricole and La Francaise des Jeux - and Italy's Saeco.

But Pantani's Mercatone Uno outfit is not one of them.

Armstrong challenged?

The 16 highest ranked teams in the world are automatically selected.

Italy's Mario Cipollini, one of the most successful Tour sprinters in recent years with 12 stage wins, will also be absent from the start in Luxembourg because his Acqua & Sapone team was not selected.

Tour boss Jean-Marie Leblanc again decided to opt for local teams at the expense of stars like 1998 champion Pantani, or Cipollini.

Saeco were chosen because their leader is last year's Giro winner Gilberto Simoni, who looks capable of posing a threat to reigning three-times champion Lance Armstrong.

Veteran Swiss Alex Zuelle, who finished second in 1995 and 1999, and last year's Vuelta winner Angel Casero were also sidelined as their Team Coast team was not invited.

Pantani has been dogged by injury and scandal in the last three years.

He was thrown out of the 1999 Giro d'Italia for having been found to have an excessive red blood cell count, a symptom often related to doping.

Pantani was in 2000 given a three-month suspended sentence by an Italian court for doping offences.

And last month Pantani was questioned by Italian police in the ongoing investigation into drug finds during the 2001 Giro d'Italia.

See also:

11 Apr 02 |  Cycling
Pantani quizzed
18 Feb 02 |  Other Sports
Pantani launches Armstrong attack
02 May 01 |  Other Sports
Pantani: Tour is 'killing cycling'
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