Julian Gorospe (Team Manager of Euskaltel-Euskadi) is hoping that during the early part of the 2003 season his boys in orange may get results good enough to be awarded a wild-card: "Jean-Marie Leblanc has made things clear: the last four wild cards wil be given to teams that had a good season start, and we'll try to be one of them. We have to give everything in order to deserve a spot, but it won't be easy as there are many squads wishing to get there, including several French teams eager to take part in the Centenary Tour de France. The route is a good one, with plenty of mountains able to make the difference".
Manolo Saiz (Team Manager of ONCE-Eroski): "The route is similar to previous years', but also appropriate to the most "creative" riders. There are just three mountain top finishes, and about the same quantity of Kms. in Time Trials as in the last editions. But much more hilly stages not finishing uphill, and this could provide opportunities for new tactical situations. It may be a great tour if partcipants realize that you have to dare and try in order to win".
Saiz's main favorite remains Lance Armstrong. "It's hard to say the Tour is an open race when a rider like Armstrong is in. He's the hot favorite, but our team, with riders that worked well together in the last two years, have to go there to win the Tour. Our main target is to be protagonists. And the fact the first long ITT comes after the Alps is good for Beloki. If there are no crashes, we should logically have the same time as Armstrong when the race hits the first mountains. And Ullrich could to the same if he's in the race. Armstrong will be the "moral" but not actual boss of the race in the early part, that will force him to control the peloton and spend a lot of energies, a favorable thing for ONCE".
Eusebio Unzué (Team Manager of iBanesto.com): "In this moment I can't see anyone able to beat Armstrong. although behind him there are more and more young riders hoping to get closer to him, and waiting for the man to start failing a bit, a normal thing for everyone. The 2003 route is well-balanced and with enough of everything. It's a "classical" course, but the Tour de France is not used to big changes".
iBanesto.com will have Francisco Mancebo as team captain for the 2003 Tour; a rider aiming at doing better than in previous editions. "Mancebo is getting more and more experienced and now has to show that he can do important things. He's our man".
The 2003 season will be the last one with Banesto as cycling sponsor, and Unzué said that ending a more than 10-year-long presence with a victory would be impressive. "If we won the Tour, even the sponsors could think over and go on. Next year I'll be working to pay them back for all their efforts and the way they let us work, and the important part they played in this successful cycle".
Vicente Belda (Team Manager of Kelme-Costa Blanca): "Our riders will have to be ready, in case Armstrong fails. The competition will be a tough one, with a route that syuts complete riders, but neither pure climbers nor Time-Trial specialists. I'm glad that the race hits the mountains before than it did in 2002, so we won't have to spend to first 13 days elbowing our way inside the peloton".
But he didn't sound so glad about the Team Time Trial: still too many kilometres, in Belda's opinion. He also pointed out he difficulties marking the mountain stages, the fourteenth (Saint-Girons - Loudenville) and fifteenth (finishing up to Luz-Ardiden) legs in particular.
The Kelme-Costa Blanca director still believes in the chances of both Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero. "They have worked well together so far. Something that didn't happen with Aitor. Botero is a worthy of confidence rider. Last year nobody thought that he could beat Armstrong in a Time-Trial, and he did. As for Oscar, he's the climber that improved his time-trialling skills the most, and is getting more and more polivalent. He will need to be as good as usual in the climbs, and not lose so much time in the Individual Time-Trials, which are not that long.
Oscar Sevilla: "There are many climbs, especially in the Pyrenean stages. I think we can make things difficult for Armstrong".