The Tour de France organisers announced today the first four wild Card teams to have been pre selected for the Tour 2003. Quick Step-Davitamon (Bel) (Virenque), Crédit Agricole (Fra) (O'Grady), FDJ.com (Fra) (Cooke, McGee) and Saeco Macchine per Caffè (Ita) (Simoni, Quaranta) were the first 4 wild cards to be chosen.
This now confirms 18 teams to start in Paris.
The final four teams will be selected, based, in theory on results from the early part of the season on May 19th.
The biggest shock was that World Champion Mario Cipollini's team, Domina Vacanze-Elitron-RDZ did not make the first cut.
Tour head LeBlanc will be well aware that the exclusion of the Lion King and Saeco last year was very damaging to Tour/Italian relationships. Indeed large parts of the Italian press gave the Tour lip service last year and very few Italian journalists bothered to cross the border.
“We have a favourable view with regards to Cipollini - said Leblanc talking to AFP - but we need to see how his team competes and they haven’t had the chance to race yet. If in 2003 it’s the same Cipollini of last season then they’ll have a good chance of being invited”.
"We'd like to see him in the Tour but it depends on how his team performs," said Leblanc.
Meanwhile there was no panic (yet) from the Domina Vacanze team. Speaking to Datasport a spokesman said: “We’ll wait for the organization of the Tour to select the other four teams in May and are fortunate that amongst those teams we are the one with the World Champion.”
Talking to Velo Club, the manager of FDJeux.com, Marc Madiot, did not seemed particulary surprised that the team had received the wild card (which in truth they deserved).
The twice winner of Roubaix is far more pragmatic than to be suffering "Tour fever" in January with the Spring Classics looming.
The selection had been expected and will not alter the teams plans.
"Selection or non selection, we take every race as it comes with the intention of winning it."
Madiot, whose team enjoyed great success in the Tour Down Under with Baden Cooke, is certain of one thing: "The teams for the Tour are not selected from results in the Tour Down Under."
As for the presence of two French teams in the wild card selection, Marc Madiot was satisfied with a gloomy "the more French teams, the better it is."
In reality, at the moment, Marc Madiot is more concerned with another selection. His team are waiting for an invitation to ride in Milan-San Remo.
The man of the pave Marc Madiot will be desperate to let loose his Australian Dingoes Baden Cooke and Brad McGee in the Classic Italian race.
Vincent Lavenu, the General Manager of French team AG2R, remains trustful. Talking to L'Equipe he said:
"We are very disappointed not to be selected. We really thought we would make the first cut. We have the same arguments to why we should have been selected as before. We have won five stages of the race in the last 6 years. Our team has been established for twelve years. Throughout that time only Credit Agricole have been better than us. But, the organizers made their choice and it should be respected. This kind of decision is always difficult to take. We have a challenge to take up from here to May. It adds to the pressure.
Maybe that pressure will make us as a team. Laurent Brochard was the best French rider in 2002 and he has World Cup Ambitions. As for Jan Kirsipuu, his ambition is to win Paris-Roubaix."
Team Jean Delatour
Team Jean Delatour were not surprised to miss the cut -
"Even though we had a good Tour last year we were half expecting this...ultimately the final selection will be made on results."
Philippe Raimbaud (Brioches-La Boulangère)
Another stoic reply but also a question -
"There is no disappointment. The Tour of France is won on merit, and we strive for those values. Provided the team gets the results it deserves and we evolve as a team there should be no problem to be selected next time.
"It should be a logical process. If it is, I do wonder about Saeco..."
18 teams guaranteed a place in Paris 2003:
- Team Coast (Ger) (Jan Ullrich, Angel Casero Moreno, David Plaza Romero)
- Gerolsteiner (Ger) (Davide Rebellin, Georg Totschnig, Markus Zberg)
- Team Telekom (Ger) (Zabel, Savoldelli, Mario Aerts, Cadel Evans, Andreas Klöden, Santiago Botero Echeverry)
- Lotto-Domo (Bel) (Robbie McEwen, Axel Merckx, Rik Verbrugghe)
- Team CSC (Dan) (Hamilton, Sastre)
- Kelme-Costa Blanca (Esp) (Oscar Sevilla Ribera)
- Ibanesto.com (Esp) (Juan M. Mercado Martin, Aitor Osa Eizaguirre, Evgeni Petrov, Leonardo Piepoli)
- Once-Eroski (Esp) (Joseba Beloki Dorronsoro, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano)
- Cofidis, le Crédit par Téléphone (Fra) (Andrei Kivilev, David Millar, David Moncoutié)
- Rabobank (Hol) (Boogerd, Freire)
- Alessio (Ita) (Franco Pellizotti, Pietro Caucchioli, Andrea Noè)
- Sidermec (Ita) (Stefano Garzelli, Fred Rodriguez)
- Fassa Bortolo (Ita) (Michele Bartoli, Ivan Basso, Alessandro Petacchi)
- US Postal Service (USA) (Armstrong, Heras)
- Quick Step-Davitamon (Bel) - (Kurt van de Wouwer, Frank Vandenbroucke, Richard Virenque, Piotr Wadecki)
- Crédit Agricole (Fra) (Christophe Moreau, Stuart O'Grady)
- FDJ.com (Fra)(Cooke, McGee)
- Saeco Macchine per Caffè(Ita) (Simoni, Di Lucca)
Which leaves the following teams chasing for the last places (4):
AG2R Prévoyance (Kirsipuu)
Brioches La Boulangère (Rous)
Jean Delatour (Halgand)
Lampre- Daikin (Casagrande)
Domina Vacanze-Elitron-RDZ (Cipollini)
Euskaltel - Euskadi (Mayo)
Phonak Hearing Systems (Perez Fernandez)
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago -(Yaroslav Popovych, Tom Steels)
Milaneza - MSS (Claus Michael Møller, Angel Edo Alsina)
Sources: L'equipe, Velo Club, Cycling4fans.