The oldest team in the peloton, Kelme-Costa Blanca is known for it's attacking style, and though the past month has seen two big blows to Kelme's tour hopes - with G.C. Contender Oscar Sevilla unable to return to sufficient form to climb into the saddle in France due to the recent removal of a cyst from the groin area, and sprinter Issac Galvez, still suffering still from a knee injury - this year, says Kelme Director Sportif, Vincent Belda, will be no different.
Belda told Spanish Daily, AS, that the team, now leaderless, will seek be "more than ever the animator." After last year's financial crisis, and the loss of contenders Santiago Botero and Aitor Gonzalez, the team has been structured around Sevilla, whose absence means a new look at what the team is capable of for the tour, forcing them to seek smaller objectives that are possible with the firepower they have.
Even with diminished objectives, Belda has sent a message to his riders, saying that "It is necessary to give everything, and to gain the best possible result," adding, "as we have no leader to take care of, no rider will be more important that another if there is a break. Each one will look for his opportunity, and his moment."
Kelme brings a team of all rounders and climbers, who, without an objective other than stage wins and sponsor exposure, will certainly attack whenever they can.
Javier Pascual Llorente had good results earlier this season at the Vuelta a Murcia, the Vuelta a la Communidad Valenciana, and the Setmana Catalana. Toni Tauler had a respectable early season as well. Heading into to the tour, Jesus Manzano, who won stage 4 of the Volta Catalunya looks to be on good form, as does Jose Enrique Gutierrez, who was active in the breaks there, and saw some strong finishes. David Latasa has looked good earlier in the year as well, and has some promise for the tour.
In short, Kelme, leaderless and with no real sprinter, will ride aggressively and seek stage wins, making them a bit of a wildcard, but unlikely to have much effect on the General Classification, though the Daily Peloton's own Locutus tags the Kelme team as potential contendes in the King of the Mountains competition.
Though the loss of key players has been a blow to Kelme-Costa Blanca's tour aspirations, DS Belda promises: "We will often be protagonists."
Kelme-Costa Blanca for the 2003 Tour de France
Jose Enrique Gutierrez
Javier Pascual Llorente