|-Text by Nina (Yeti) and translation by Susan (Tick) from Cycling4Fans- |
Everything looked so good at the start of the year for Team Coast: it was fifth in the world team ranking, making it the top German team, and therefore was qualified directly for the Tour de France, thus eliminating the usual suspense associated with the wild-card invitations. But what must have pleased the team management most was that they had left their biggest rival, Team Telekom, far behind. And they landed a major coup by signing the only German TdF winner, Jan Ullrich.
However, dark clouds soon appeared over the dream-of-a-lifetime-come-true of owner Günther Dahms, the Essen, Germany, based owner of chain of clothing stores. The first team suspension for irregularities in salary payments was soon followed by the second, and ultimately the team license was withdrawn altogether.
The team was taken over by Bianchi, and the UCI did everything it could to help the new management, allowing the team to retain its GS-I and Top Club status. And so the new Team Bianchi and Sporting Director Rudy Pevenage will send the following line-up to the start of the Tour de France on July 5:
Daniel Becke, 25, Germany
A good time trialist who started his career on the track. In 1999 he was German, World, and World Cup Champion in Team Pursuit, and won gold in the Sydney 2000 Olympics in that discipline. In early 2003, after a three-year break, he beat his idol Jens Lehmann to win the German title in the 4000-meter individual pursuit. He is on the German team for the upcoming World track championships in Stuttgart.
His first grand tour was the Vuelta in 2002, where he had an outstanding ninth place in the final time trial. In the Tour his greatest contribution should be in the team time trial. Becke, from Erfurt, is due to become a father for the first time in August.
Angel Luis Casero Moreno, 29, Spain
He joined Team Coast after Team Festina folded after the 2001 season. He has a long list of successes, is a good stage-tour rider with strengths in both the mountains and time trials, probably being stronger in the race against the clock. In 1999 he was fifth in the Tour and became Spanish champion. In 2000 he finished second in the Vuelta, a race he was able to win the next year, fulfilling a self-admitted dream. After a six-month injury pause in 2002, he achieved a good sixth place in the Vuelta. Casero, who is considered very sensitive, suffered from the team's problems earlier in the season and is unhappy that not all Spanish employees were taken over by Bianchi. He starts the Tour as an equal captain with Jan Ullrich, and it remains to be seen which of the two will be stronger at the end of the race.
Felix Garcia Casas, 34, Spain
He abruptly changed to Bianchi from the French team Big Mat on June 20. A mountain specialist, he was eighth in the 2002 Vuelta, and in this Tour is expected to support the team captain, especially in the mountains.
Aitor Garmendia, 35, Spain
He has already helped the great Miguel Indurain to Tour victories in 1992 and 1995. He previously rode for Banesto and ONCE, and has experience in all three of the grand tours. He has won the Tour of Aragon and the Tour of Galacia.
Fabrizio Guidi, 30, Italy
He is the only Italian on this Italian-sponsored team.
Last year in the so-called "Euro-Giro" he had early second- and fourth-place stage finishes. When Stefano Garzelli was removed from the race for doping, he was belatedly awarded the pink leader's jersey. This was small consolation for the sprinter from Ponterdera, who would have dearly loved to have worn this special piece of clothing on the streets of his homeland. Last year he won Firenze-Pistoia, a time trial, which was quite a surprise since he is mainly identified as a sprinter.
Thomas Liese, 34, Germany
To participate in his first Tour at this late stage in his career is a dream come true for this time trial specialist. He only turned professional in 1999 but has been very successful since then, winning the Sachsen Tour in 2000, the German time-trial title in 2001, and the time trial stage in the Tour of Germany. The team has high hopes for him in the Tour time trials.
David Plaza, 32, Spain
This rider from the Spanish capital of Madrid is a good stage-tour rider, which he has proved with his time trial and overall victories in the 2000 Tour of Germany, as well as his sixth place in the 2001 Vuelta. Because of a broken arm suffered early in the year in training and the multiple suspensions of Team Coast, he has not been able to train as he would have liked and has had little racing experience this year.
Tobias Steinhauser, 31, Germany
Up until the end of last year he was with the rival German team, Team Gerolsteiner. He refused their offer to extend his contract and instead followed his friend Jan Ullrich to Team Coast. A highlight in his career was the time trial in the 2002 Tour of Germany, where Gerolsteiner riders took the three top spots. He is also considered a trump card for the Tour time trials.
Jan Ullrich, 29, Germany
One doesn't need to say much about him, the first German to win the Tour, who has never finished it lower than second.
World champion, Olympic champion, Vuelta winner...he has a long list of successes, which would be even longer if not for continued knee problems.
Knee pains kept him from riding most of the early 2002 season. In the early hours of May 1, 2002, while under the influence of alcohol, he had an auto accident in Freiburg, Germany. Shortly thereafer he had multiple surgeries on his knee. While in rehabilitation, a drug test came back positive, and he admitted to taking two pills in a disco. This was followed by a six-month suspension and subsequently his transfer to Team Coast. He was joined there by his longtime sporting director Rudy Pevenage. After all the team's problems, he celebrated his comeback with a sensation win in "Rund um Köln." He later confirmed his good form with his performance in the Tour de Suisse.
Many people are waiting to see whether he can continue to show this good form in the Tour, which demands three weeks of the highest level of performance. He has certainly received additional motivation by the birth of his daughter Sarah Maria on July 1.