|With just a handful of hours to work with, German powerhouse Team Telekom has a new battle plan for this year's Tour de France. Up until just a couple of weeks ago, the team led by Walter Godefroot, planned a full frontal attack for July, but now the team has to rely on a two man assault on four time defending champion Lance Armstrong. Team Telekom was hoping to arrive at the 100th year birthday party of the world's most important bicycle race with four men, with the clear message of making Lance Armstrong's life impossible during the race.
The pink and black formation was hoping to ambush Armstrong with the likes of World Time Trial Champion, Santiago Botero, along side him, the winner of Paris-Nice, Amstel Gold and Tour of Suisse, Alexandre Vinokourov, last year's Giro winner, Paolo Savoldelli, and up and coming star Cadel Evans. But Savoldelli had to give his spot because of nagging stomach problems and erratic form and Evans is still recovering from a broken collarbone. That lives Botero and Vinokourov with the responsibility of getting to Paris with the yellow jersey.
Vinokorouv has already proven that he can be a contender by showing top form all season, but on the other hand, Botero has been almost a complete mystery even to his team manager. Godefroot admitted this week that he hasn't watched Botero race all year and reminded everyone that the biggest part of the Colombian's training took part in his native country, as the rider requested when the contract was signed. Unfortunately for Telekom, Botero got bronchitis in his German day view and he has not been on top form on the races he has taken part. He showed he still has intentions to fight for the title with his third place in the last uphill time trial in the Vuelta a Catalunya.
Not all is bad news for the team and they will be counting on the now veteran, Erik Zabel, to win one or more stages, as well as getting back the green's points jersey that Robbie McEwen snatched from him last year. But Zabel once again will have to face the top sprinters, without much help from his team, which is packed heavy of climbers. But the current German Champion, knows how to achieve victories on his own and will be looking to show that he is still the man to beat when it comes to wearing the points jersey.
The team will decide on the road the strategy to follow. Will Vinokourov and Botero get the support of the entire team, will Zabel attempt on the green jersey require the strength of the complete squad or will the formation be divided in two fronts? Hard questions to answer for Godefroot, but one thing remains certain, the pink and black lads will give Lance Armstrong and the entire peloton, a run for their money.
Mario Aerts (Bel)
Rolf Aldag (Ger)
Santiago Botero (Col)
Matthias Kessler (Ger)
Andreas Klöden (Ger)
Daniele Nardello (Ita)
Giuseppe Guerini (Ita)
Alexander Winokurow (Kas)
Erik Zabel (Ger)
Many thanks to my friend and team mate Cesar Marin for the help with the article.