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ONCE vs. Postal
By Podofdonny
Date: 7/14/2002
ONCE vs. Postal

The US Postal Team

Lance Armstrong (USA)
Triple Tour Winner after Cancer Comeback!  A marketing man's dream - and the legend is not far from the truth. Red hot favourite for a fourth Tour victory -  Armstrong sets the DP mark with 9.5

Roberto Heras (Esp)
In 2000 Heras finished 6th in the Tour and won the Vuelta, but last year he managed to repeat neither result. Two things had changed: firstly, he had awful problems with tendinitis in his knee; secondly, he moved from being team leader at Kelme to super-domestique at USP. Even though the injury problem has cleared up, Heras has crashed already this tour and this takes .5 off his score. DP score  8.5

José Luis Rubiera (Esp)
With Heras at less than his best last year, Rubiera was Armstrong's main support in the mountains and eventually finished 38th overall. On his day he is a potential stage winner, but he's unlikely to be seen in the last 5km of a mountain stage if he's performing in total support of Armstrong as planned. Great man to have in the mountains.  DP score 7.5

Vjatcheslav Ekimov (Rus)
His pro career seems to have ended last season when the Russian and US Postal couldn't come to an agreement on a contract extension. Slava went off to manage the very low budget Itera team from Russia, but after some cajoling -
it has been said that Armstrong was concerned about the lack of strength among his team's rouleurs - Ekimov emerged from the Itera team car in early June to resume his riding career. Hugely strong and experienced, Ekimov was renowned for his flying final kilometre efforts, but is now the most dependable of domestiques rather than a stage-winning threat.
DP score 7.5

Floyd Landis (USA)
Signed from the Mercury team at the end of last season, Landis has been almost as much of a surprise this season as Levi Leipheimer was for US Postal last. A very good all-rounder rather than a pure climber or time triallist, Landis is an outside bet for the top 10 overall, but that would be a huge achievement for a rider in his first Tour, even after a second
place finish in the Dauphiné. Less likely than Heras to be given some freedom to ride his own race, and in need of experience at this level not proven over three weeks. DP score 6.5

Benoit Joachim (Lux)
Like seven of his team-mates, the Luxemburger is expendable to the goals of the rider wearing No. 1.  Joachim's role in USPS's Armstrong Plan is to provide shelter and support on the flatter stages. Very unlikely to feature in the points unless he's patrolling what becomes a winning break. Has done his work in the early stages - has been to medical control twice - .5 off his score, deducted for medical reasons. DP score  6.0

Victor Hugo Peña (Col)
As expendable as the rest of the USPS domestiques, but worth fantasy consideration because he's a very strong time triallist. Winner of the Tour of Murcia in March, Peña may not be given the green light to go full bore in the time trials, but if he is allowed to show his class against the clock he's a potential top 10 finisher in the three individual time trials.Was
also involved in the crash that finished off Freire and Rous.  0.5  deducted for crashing. DP score 6.5

Pavel Padrnos (Cze)
Talented enough to have finished 18th in the Giro d'Italia in 1999 when with Lampre, Padrnos was signed from Saeco at the end of last season to boost US Postal's strength between those moments when the rouleurs fade away and the
mountain specialists take over. This is only his second Tour, but he's ridden the Giro five times - dependable.
DP score 6.5

George Hincapie (USA)
When Hincapie missed out on his Paris-Roubaix dream, a reporter told him: 'Never mind, George, you can always win a stage at the Tour.' 'That's Lance's race,' was Hincapie's reply, encapsulating US Postal's philosophy. The New Yorker is a good sprinter but not among the very best.  Hard to justify his inclusion. DP score 6.0

The ONCE Team

Joseba Beloki (Esp)
Third the last two years, the big question about Beloki is whether he's any more than a good rider who manages to stick on the right wheels for a long time. Sure, he's strong in time trials and the mountains, but he's never once attacked Ullrich or Armstrong and seems incapable of doing so. When he was in the lead at the Vuelta last year he collapsed spectacularly due to illness. The big difference this year is that Ullrich and Telekom are not contenders -  he has a clearer focus. DP score 8.5

Igor Gonzalea de Galdeano
Fifth overall last year and one of the best climbers available. Stands apart from the pure climbers as he's also one of the best time triallists in the race. He was second in the prologue and final time trial last year, and finished in the top 10 on most of the key mountain stages. Though not perhaps as highly touted as team leader Beloki, Igor G de G was not too far behind him last year and might be a better bet this. Now he has the yellow he might not be keen to let it go.
DP score 8.5

Marcos Serrano (Esp)
One-time Kelme star Serrano is one of most respected riders in Spain and usually acts as team captain in the world championships. In major tours he's a formidable performer as well. Last year when working for the interests of Beloki and Igor G de G, Serrano still managed to finish well up on the key mountain stages and eventually took 9th place overall. If Beloki and Gonzalez de Galdeano aren't at that best, Serrano is capable of maintaining ONCE's challenge.
DP score 7.0

Jorg Jaksche (Ger)
The German, who will be 26 during the final week of the race, led the best young rider's competition last year – eventually finishing third – on the way to a promising 29th place overall. Though not in the same class as contemporaries such as Oscar Sevilla and Paco Mancebo, Jaksche may yet surprise a few. DP score 7.0

Isidro Nozal (Esp)
It says much for Tour debutant Nozal that by selecting the 24 year old, ONCE team boss Manolo Saiz has overlooked the Tour claims of several more experienced riders. Now in his fourth year with the team, Nozal put himself into contention with a string of top class results during May, including a stage win in the Alcobendas Classic and seventh place in both the Tour of Germany and the Tour of Asturias. A strong climber, Nozal is an asset to the team.  DP score 6.5

Abraham Olano (Esp)
The 1994 world road champion was due to be riding the Giro this season, but once Spanish TV confirmed they would not be covering that race and ONCE then decided to withdraw, Olano has altered course for the Tour. Previously a serious Tour contender who finished fourth in 1997, Olano's Achilles' heel has always been the high mountains and with a bit more ability there he could well have been 'the next Indurain' Spain was looking for in the mid-1990's. He's still a superb time triallist and decent climber who would love to be part of a winning team.   + 0.5 for experience DP score  8.0

Mikel Pradera (Esp)
A strong all-rounder, Pradera was 62nd in his first Tour last year and has built up slowly to this year's race. Given the huge spread of talent in this ONCE team, there need to be a couple of riders who are there simply to sacrifice themselves for the rest, and Pradera looks like one of them. Very much a support rider on all terrains, but a good time triallist, although not good enough to make an impact on these stages. DP score 6.0

Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano (Esp)
Third in the recent Spanish TT, a good all rounder capable of winning stages - but a true domestique in this race.
DP score 6.0

José Azevedo (Por)
Very strong all rounder, and dedicated to the team. DP score 6.5

The Score
US Postal Service =  64.50
ONCE-Eroski = 64.00

Let's hope it is as close as that! Do you agree or disagree with these rankings? Let us hear from you on the messageboard!

Grateful acknowledgement to Peter Cossin's excellent rider profiles at Directeur Sportif.

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