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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Kelme-Costa Blanca
TEAM PROFILE
Aitor Gonzalez, who has left the team since winning last year's Vuelta
Country: Spain
Team boss: Joas Mas
Team leader:
Best Tour: Team prize - 2000, 2001
This year's Tour de France could prove a trip too far even for the Spanish team's mighty climbers.

The team that will arrive at the start of the centenary year of the Tour is a shadow of its former self.

Financial wranglings throughout last season almost ended in the departure of Oscar Sevilla, although the team eventually managed to hold on to him.

Their powers of persuasion were not quite so potent when it came to Santiago Botero and Aitor Gonzalez.

Botero was the one man to look like troubling Lance Armstrong last season with victory in the opening time trial and a superb mountain stage win.

His expertise, however, has been snapped up by Team Telekom.

Last season proved a good one for Kelme in the latter stages when Aitor Gonzalez rode to victory in the Vuelta d'Espana.

But, like Botero, he has headed for greener pastures - in his case those of Italian outfit Fassa Bartolo.

Some argue his departure may help the team after reported in-fighting over whether they should focus their attentions on Sevilla or Gonzalez.

But not even Sevilla will be part of the team this time around, Ignacio Gutierrez instead leading the team's charge.

Kelme's history in the sport remains a very strong one. They are the longest ever sponsors, having started their relationship with cycling back in 1980.

Despite some major departures, there is still bags of talent within Kelme.

Antonio Tauler is a time trial specialist, Jose Enrique Gutierrez is a stong specialist climber and Santi Perez is targeted as the future leader of the team.





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