Tour de France
Conceived as a race to sell newspapers, nearly 100 years later the race lives up to its reputation. New UCI rules have once again been changed regarding the selection process for the worlds biggest cycle race.
What teams can Lance Armstrong, defending champion with his U S Postal team expect to face?
Here is the DP estimate of Tour 2003 so far...
22 teams of 9 riders will be invited for the Tour de France 2003. The teams will be selected according to
the new rules of the UCI.
The top 14 teams in the UCI rankings at the end of October 2002 automatically qualify.
4 teams will receive a wild card from the organizers at the end of January 2003.
4 teams will receive a wild card mid-May 2003, based on the results of the teams in 2003.
The top twenty teams in the final rankings of the UCI 2002 were:
Photo by Jeff Tse
1 - Mapei - Quick Step (Ita) - 9245pts
2 - Fassa Bartolo (Ita) - 8083
3 - US Postal Service (Usa) - 6820
4 - Lotto - Adecco (Bel) - 6662
5 - Team Coast (Ger) - 6308
6 - Cofidis (Fra) - 6307
7 - ONCE - Eroski (Spa) - 6116
8 - iBanesto.com (Spa) - 5993
9 - Rabobank (Ned) - 5829
10 - CSC-Tiscali (Den) - 5789
11 - Gerolsteiner (Ger) - 5667
12 - Team Telekom (Ger) - 5534
13 - Kelme - Costa Blanca (Spa) - 5359
14 - Alessio (Ita) - 5101
15 - DOMO-Farm Frites (Bel) - 5096
16 - Saeco-Longoni Sport (Ita) - 4913
17 - Tacconi Sport (Ita) - 4902
18 - Lampre - Daikin (Ita) - 4826
19 - Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo (Ita) - 4597
20 - Phonak Hearing Systems (Swi) - 4031
So the top 14 clubs automatically qualify for a place in the 2003 Tour. However, the Worlds number One team Mapei will not be continuing their sponsorship next season. Also the Lotto - Domo teams merge, all of which is good news for Alessio and Saeco who move up the rankings by default and therefore qualify.
The nation who have clearly gained most ground over the season is Germany. Telekom’s statement at the start of the season - “We want to be best in the world, not just Germany,” has proven to be an empty promise - they finished behind both Team Coast and Gerolsteiner but all three German teams will qualify for the Tour. A remarkable achievement when you consider that not so long back the German nation was delighted to have Telekom in the tour as a split team with ZG Rosslotto. The transformation of Germany from a sleeping giant into one of the major Cycling nations owes a lot to Jan Ullrich, which is always worth bearing in mind before hasty judgements are passed on him.
Hopefully the presence of three Italian teams will reawaken Italian interest in the tour. Following the disgraceful exclusion of the Saeco team this season and the non selection of Acqua & Sapone, Italian interest in the Tour hit an all time low. The possible presence of Aitor Gonzalez for Fassa, Simoni for Saeco and Franco Pellizotti for Alessio will hopefully rekindle Italian interest.
Spain, as usual, has the "big three" in automatic qualifying positions, CSC are assured of a place for Denmark while Rabobank and Lotto - Domo ensure the TV audiences will be high in that part of Europe.
Regardless of what silly slogan OLN can come up with ("Lance versus the Universe" - maybe?) US interest is, of course held high by the presence of the US Postal team.
The big vacuum, ironically enough, is from France. With only Cofidis qualifying automatically and with Jalabert retiring from the CSC team, once again Mr. Le Blanc may have to use the wild cards very, er - wildly, to ensure a true French interest.
Once again the wild card selection process is bound to be under microscopic scrutiny over the coming months - you have been warned!
Teams already qualified for the 2003 Tour are:
ITALY: Fassa Bortolo, Alessio, Saeco
SPAIN: Kelme, Once, Ibanesto
GERMANY: Team Telekom, Team Coast, Gerolsteiner
UNITED STATES: US Postal Service
Photo by Jeff Tse
Please visit our Tour de France hub page http://www.dailypeloton.com/tourdefrance2002.asp
Thanks to the excellent Cycling4All for some stats!
Special thanks to Jeff Tse for the "special use" of his excellent Lance Armstrong photo.