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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Bianchi
TEAM PROFILE
Jan Ullrich
Country: Germany
Manager:
Team leader:
Leading lieutenant: Angel Casero
Best Tour: First ever Tour appearance
Jan Ullrich's long-awaited return to the Tour de France will be the main talking point as Team Bianchi compete in the race for the first time ever.

During much of Lance Armstrong's Tour dominance, Ullrich has been the closest contender but missed last year's race because of injury and a drugs ban for amphetamines.

The controversial cyclist has since switched from Team Telekom to their German rivals after a much-publicised autumn battle for his signature with CSC-Tiscali.

His time at the team, to date, has not been without controversy - financial problems caused delays in the rider being paid.

Eventually Team Coast, as it was called when he joined, was no more when the leading sponsors pulled out. Bianchi have since stepped in to fill the void.

Having not proved himself for some time, it remains to be seen what, if anything, Ullrich can do to challenge Lance Armstrong amid his team upheaval.

Aside from that, the team's ambitions will firmly be on the overall classification rather than stage wins or sprint finishes.

Ullrich is not the only big talent in the team.

Angel Casero already has one big tour win under his belt, having triumphed in the 2001 Vuelta de Espana.

He won in stunning fashion then, overturning a 25-second deficit on the final stage to steal victory from Oscar Sevilla.

Casero failed to repeat the feat last year but looks a strong bet to keep Ullrich company in the mountains, if little else.

Other riders expected to make the team for 2003 are David Plaza, Aitor Garmendia and Manuel Beltran.

Team Coast certainly have the overall back-up to challenge seriously in a major tour but it remains to be seen whether they can do it at the Tour this time around.





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