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Tour Méditerranéen - Stage 5 UPDATED
 
By Staff
Date: 2/15/2004
Tour Méditerranéen - Stage 5 UPDATED
 
The fifth and final stage of the Tour of the Mediterranean turned into a showdown of the CSC team, who took all three podium places in both the Stage and Overall Standings. Winner of both the 28-km. fifth leg of the French race (a Time Trial between La Garde and Mont Faron) and the GC was Germany's Jörg Jaksche, with Italian Ivan Basso taking second in the same time.

Stage 5 Report


The riders were still shocked by the awful news about Pantani. It was as though the soul of the race had been torn out.

What was to be an innovative stage, a mixture of team time trial and mountain climb was now a hollow echo.

Race Organizer Lucien Aimar, was unable to hold a minutes silence before the race due to the formula of this last stage. It took place, probably more appropriately at the top of Mont Faron. A mythical cycling mountain, and certainly the respectful silence at the top of the mountain seemed worthy of “Il Pirata”.

The fans who lined the twisting curves of the climb seemed to understand that many riders could not be fully motivated, and yet one team did manage to make one final effort despite their grief.

Team CSC, undoubtedly the team of the race, took their inspiration from a man who raced against Pantani many times, Bjarne Riis-

"It took a special kind of motivation to ride today on top of such tragic news about Pantani. I advised the riders to focus on the job at hand and use their frustration to go faster – out of respect for Pantani and the sport,"-

With great team support, in particular from Basso, Voigt and Julich, Jörg Jaksche, a man who in the last week has crashed and been sick, finally got the victory his career deserved.

To win the Tour de France the Captain needs a team that is able to respond to adversity and disappointment. The bookmakers will take note of this performance of CSC today and make a mental note to lower the odds for Ivan Basso.

Should Basso be the next Italian to win the Tour, now what a tribute to Pantani that would be……..

Tour Méditerranéen Stage 5 - Top 5 Places
1. Jörg Jaksche (Ger- Team CSC) - 41'14"
2. Ivan Basso (Ita- Team CSC) - s.t.
3. Jens Voigt (Ger- Team CSC) - at 41"
4. Michael Boogerd (Hol - Rabobank) - at 01'02"
5. David Moncoutie (Fra - Cofidis) - at 01'05"
6. Laurent Brochard (FRA) 1:14.
7. Levi Leipheimer (USA) 1:15.
8. Paolo Bettini (ITA)) 1:19.
9. Bobby Julich (USA) 1:25.
10. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) 1:30.

Tour Méditerranéen Final Overall - Top 10 Places
1. Jörg Jaksche (Ger - Team CSC) - 12h16'31"
2. Ivan Basso (Ita - Team CSC) - s.t.
3. Jens Voigt (Ger - Team CSC) - at 33"
4. Michael Boogerd (Hol - Rabobank) - at 54"
5. David Moncoutié (Fra - Cofidis) - at 01'05"
6. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step-Davitamon) - at 01'07"
7. Laurent Brochard (Fra - Ag2r Prévoyance) - at 01'12"
8. Bobby Julich (USA - Team CSC) - at 01'17"
9. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra - Brioches La Boulangère) - at 01'18"
10. Levi Leipheimer (USA - Rabobank) - at 01'25"

Stage 4

Mario Cipollini is back in full force! Close to nine months after his last win, in a Giro d'Italia stage, the Italian specialist sprinter was back to the top of the podium in the third leg of the Tour of the Mediterannean, covering 147 km. between Gréasque and Marignane.

After narrowly losing to Baden Cooke on Friday, the Lion King took his revenge and roared big style in Saturday's sprint, in a stage turned into a Domina Vacanze showdown as, with the Aussie nowhere to be seen today, his younger teammate Andrus Aug of Estonia took second right behind the maestro.

It was Super Mario's 14th win in the history of the French contest, and the 186th of the man's own career. And an excellent result for the Baltic rider, someone we might expect many a good performances from this year.

Nothing new at the top of the GC, with World Champion Igor Astarloa of Spain still in the lead with only one stage, tomorrow's unusual Time Trial into Mont Faron, to go.

Stage 4 Race report

The Lion King Roars


Super Mario! Courtesy Domina Vacanze

A wounded animal is the most dangerous, especially the Lion when his pride is hurt. After yesterdays defeat at the pedals of Baden Cooke the experienced Domina squad had a rethink on todays tactics.

Accordingly the famous Train of Cipollini had its carriages rearranged, with Aug taking the leading role from Fagnini, as Cipollini explained-

"I was very disappointed not win yesterday. We talked at length about it yesterday evening at the dinner table with my team-mates. I decided to change our way of launching the sprint. I asked Gian Matteo Fagnini, who is undoubtedly the most skilful rider and more acrobatic among us to take me to the sprint through the last turns where the course was dangerous. We had studied it and did not want to be surprised

“ I asked Andrus Aug, our quickest rider to lead me out over the final 300 meters. Our plan worked very well …... »

So mission accomplished, the Lion King roared across the line with team mate Aug still close enough behind him to take second. As for Cooke, it was his turn for bad luck. Right hand man Bradley McGee, had been forced to abandon with a knee injury and, Baden Cooke blocked in the sprint with 300 metres to go could only watch and admire the Domina train roar to the finish.

So Cipollini takes his 14th victory in the Tour Mediterranean, his 186th of his career , 270 days after the 185th , when he finally surpassed Binda’s record of 41 victories in the Giro.

Once again it was an active days racing, after 27 km five riders broke clear from the peloton : Chris Peers (Chocolate Jacques), Matej Jurco (De Nardi), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) and once again Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com). Three riders bridged the gap: Nicolas Portal (AG2R), Eddy Seigneur (RAGT Semences) and Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole) but after 90 kilometres they were pulled back only for, Nicolas Reynaud (RAGT) to launch the classic counter-attack.

It was a brave solo effort but he too was caught with just 7 kilometres to go leaving it for the sprinters to sort out the glory.

At the press conference following the race Cipollini made an emotional plea to be allowed to race in the Tour de France for one last time.

Certainly one lady would support him in this. On St Valentines Day Super Mario ensured that his winners bouquet was given to a lady in the crowd, like him or loathe him the man has style!

Now all eyes look to mythical Faron. 18 riders are still in contention for the overall victory in 31st Tour Med'. Champion of the World Igor Astarloa, is still in yellow jersey, Paolo Bettini (Second), the winner of last year, who does not hide his ambition to make it two in a row, Sylvain Chavanel (Third), who will not be happy with “just” winning the best young rider . Team CSC have three men in contention, but not the man most expected to do well, Michele Bartoli, has been suffering from tooth ache an associated fever and is out of contention. CSC will put their weight behind Jaksche-

” In my opinion, Jaksche is the best climber in the peloton, and hopefully that will make the difference. One thing's for sure, our team is highly motivated", said CSC sports director Alain Gallopin.

Results - Top 10 Places:
1. Mario Cipollini (ITA/Domina Vacanze) 3 h 14:44. (44,738 km/h)
2. Andrus Aug (EST)
3. Marco Zanotti (ITA)
4. Aurélien Clerc (SUI)
5. Alexandre Usov (BEL)
6. Angelo Furlan (ITA)
7. Simone Cadamuro (ITA)
8. Sébastien Hinault (FRA)
9. Baden Cooke (AUS)
10. Igor Astarloa (ESP) all st

General Classification
1. Igor Astarloa (ESP/Cofidis) 11 h 35:03.
2. Paolo Bettini (ITA) + 02.
3. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA)
4. Jens Voigt (ALL) 06.
5. Cyril Dessel (FRA)
6. Michael Boogerd (PBS)
7. Alexandre Botcharov (RUS)
8. Bobby Julich (USA)
9. Laurent Brochard (FRA) 12.
10. Franco Pellizotti (ITA) 14.

Stage 3

Twenty-five-year-old Australian Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) got his second win out of three days as, after taking the Tour of the Mediterranean opener in Menton on Wednesday afternoon, repeated victory today in the third stage of the competition. The young Aussie got a fotofinish win over no less than Mario Cipollini at the end of the 106-km. ride between Rousset and Berre-l'Etang, with Switzerland's Aurélien Clerc snatching third. Spain's Igor Astarloa retained the overall leader's yellow mantle.

Stage 3 Race Report

Cipo well Cooke’d!


Baden Cooke’s remarkable season continues. The Australian Ace proved today that not only is he fast enough, but also tough enough to consider himself a true classic contender.

On a day that had sprint finish written all over the parcours there were, inevitably, some riders out to disprove that theory. After the normal early attacks 5 men managed to loose the peloton after 32 kilometres of racing.

Sandy Casar,(FdJeux.com), Nicolas Portal (AG2R), Gilles Bouvard, (R.A.G.T Semence), Michael Albasini (Phonak) and Maxim Rudenko (Chocolade Jacques) managed to get a maximum lead of 1:30 by the 70 kilometre mark, but the sprinters teams were in no mood to allow the birds to fly away.

Once again FdJeux.Com had made the smartest move, with Casar in the break they could happily hide in the peloton and save their strength for the showdown that was looming.

With 12 kilometres to go the escapees were caught and. Cipollinis "Domina Vacanze" moved into top gear. "SuperMario" holds the record of stage wins in the Tour de Med and on Friday 13th he was determined to raise his personal tally in the race from 13 to 14.

The "Domina Vacanze Train" was at full steam when Mario Scirea finally unleashed the “Lion King” with two hundred metres to go. Maybe there is a little ill-feeling between Cooke and Cipollini. In last years Milan San Remo Cipollini had fallen out with Cooke and Bernhardt Eisel, and today sensing that Cooke was moving up on his right hand side, tried to block the Australian.

Cooke is as tough as an old boot found in a billabong, and brushed the challenge aside and had enough time not only to reach the line first but also wave his arm in triumph and defiance.

On Saturday the fourth and penultimate stage between Gréasque and Marignane (147 km) should see another sprinters showdown.

World Champion Igor Astarloa (Cofidis) continues to lead the race, and the overall contenders will now be thinking of the TTT up the mythical Mont Faron on Sunday.

Stage 3 Results - Top 10 Places
1. Baden Cooke (Aus - FDJeux.com) - 02h17'09"
2. Mario Cipollini (Ita - Domina Vacanze) - s.t
3. Aurélien Clerc (Swi - Quick Step-Davitamon) - s.t
4. Bernhard Eisel (Aut - FDJeux.com) - s.t
5. Marco Zanotti (Ita - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - s.t
6. Simone Cadamuro (Ita - De Nardi) - s.t
7. Saulius Ruskys (Lit - MBK-Oktos) - s.t
8. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step-Davitamon) - s.t
9. Igor Astarloa (Spa - Cofidis) - s.t
10. Jens Voigt (Ger - Team CSC) - s.t

GC after Stage 3 - Top 10 Places
1. Igor Astarloa (Spa - Cofidis) - 08h20'19"
2. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step-Davitamon) - at 02"
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra - Brioches La Boulangère) - at 02"
4. Laurent Brochard (Fra - AG2R Prévoyance) - at 02"
5. Jens Voigt (Ger - Team CSC) - at 06"
6. Michael Boogerd (Hol - Rabobank) - at 06"
7. Cyril Dessel (Fra - Phonak H.S.) - at 06"
8. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus - Crédit Agricole) - at 06"
9. Bobby Julich (USA - Team CSC) - at 06"
10. Simone Masciarelli (Ita - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - at 14"

Stage 2

Revenge, sweet revenge. Exactly four months after having his World title hopes dashed by Spain's Igor Astarloa in the Canadian town of Hamilton, Italian Paolo Bettini edged out the current rainbow jersey wearer to take the second stage of the French contest, from La Londe des Maures to the coastal town of Hyéres over 130km. The World Cup title holder notched up his first win of the season as he won a small bunch sprint in the French seaside resort at the end of a gruelling stage featuring 4 different first category KOM Primes. French prospect Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches la Boulangère) snatched third place. Astarloa could take some not so small solace in capturing the overall leader's jersey anyway.

Race Report Stage 2

Bettini over the rainbow!


Hein Verbruggen while promoting the reasoning behind the new Pro Tour commented “we want to encourage vedettes, like Bettini and Zabel, who race all year long”. Its possible that the UCI president should have added race and win all season long.

With memories of the road race in Hamilton still fresh in the mind Bettini and Astarloa ran a replay of that event, but this time the roles were reversed and it was the “cricket” who took the glory.

However it was Bettini’s team-mate Richard Virenque who was the races main animator. After a lively start to the race Virenque imposed himself on the climb of the Col de Fourches, 67 kilomètres from the finish. Once again it was a Cofidis man who had the legs to mark the break and Frédéric Bessy (Cofidis) united with the “Scorpion” and the duo tried to make good their escape. The pair managed to build a lead of 4 minutes but then the Rabobank and AG2R teams started to work hard to close the gap.

With twenty kilometres to go, it was Team CSC's Jörg Jaksche who attacked on the last climb in an effort to bridge the gap. Considering his crash in yesterday’s stage it was a remarkable performance, but the chasing group were in no mood to allow the birds to escape.

Virenque, realising the time was for bold moves attacked Jaksche and Bessey and made a brave solo attempt to reach home.

Had the stage been 129.5 kilometres Virenque’s many fans would have been thrilled, as it was 130 kilometres was 500 metres too many and the Quickstep rider was caught.

It was, the “pocket rocket” Paolo Bettini’s turn to take advantage of his team mates work, the man from Cecina proved to fast for World Champion and took a deserved victory for the team after Virenques hard work.

Astarloa, repaid his teams efforts by taking the leaders yellow jersey while Sylvain Chavanel and Laurent Brochard keep French hopes alive.

Taking into account the very small time gaps between the top 19 riders, there is no doubt that the last stage, the team time trial that isn’t to the top of Mount-Faron, on Sunday, will be decisive.

Stage 2 (La Londe des Maures-Hyéres 130km.) - Top 10 Places
1. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step-Davitamon)
2. Igor Astarloa (Spa - Cofidis)
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra - Brioches la Boulangère)
4. Oscar Camenzind (Swi - Phonak Hearing Systems)
5. Simone Masciarelli (Ita - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie)
6. Michael Blaudzun (Den - Team CSC)
7. Geert Verheyen (Bel - Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf)
8. Cyril Dessel (Fra - Phonak Hearing Systems)
9. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
10. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus - Crédit Agricole)

Gc after Stage 2 - Top 3 Places
1. Igor Astarloa (Spa - Cofidis)
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra - Brioches la Boulangère)
3. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step-Davitamon)
4 Laurent Brochard (Fra - AG2r)
5 Jens Voigt (Ger - Team CSC) 0.06
6 Simone Masciarelli (Ita - Vini Caldirola)
7 Cyril Dessel (Fra - Phonak)
8 Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio Bianchi)
9 Michael Boogerd (Ned - Rabobank)
10 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus - Crédit Agricole )

Stage 1 Another Aussie win in this early season races: Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) sprinted to victory in the opening stage of Tour Méditerranéen, covering 111 km. between Le Cannet and the border town of Menton in the South-east of France. Italian Michele Bartoli (CSC) was the surprising second-placed rider. Etoile des Bessèges recent winner Laurent Brochard continued to show his excellent condition as he snatched third in the sprint.

Stage 1 Race Report

Cooke serves up Winning recipe!


The Cooke is turning into a master chef! Baden Cooke not only demonstrated that he is the man to beat, but also that there is a lot more to his cycling than being first in massed sprints. Baden Cooke’s victory in Menton today was his fifth of the season, having already triumphed in a stage of the Tour Down Under and the Grand Prix d'Ouverture. He also won the GC overall in Jayco Bay Cycling Classic plus two stages in that same race.

Marc Madiot will be more than pleased how his Australian protégés performed today for it was Bradley McGee, who made the solo escape of the day. He escaped on the first climb of the day after just 24 kilometres and by the 47th kilometre had a lead 4 minutes 55 seconds.

With Rabobank and Cofidis leading the peloton the race was all back together after 97 kilometres at the foot of the final climb the col de la Turbie.

It was the attack of Jorg Jaksche, on the cat 1 climb which split the race asunder. Only Dmitriy Fofonov (Cofidis) could follow directly but behind a group of the usual suspects formed. Last years winner, Paolo Bettini (Quick Step - Davitamon), four more members of the impressive CSC, Michele Bartoli, Ivan Basso, Jens Voigt and Bobby Julich, the Rabobank duo of Michael Boogerd and Levi Leipheimer ,in form Laurent Brochard (AG2r), Sylvain Calzati (Quentin Oktos-Saint) (again going well ) , David Moncoutié (Cofidis) and team-mate the champion of the world Igor Astarloa, Cyril Dessel (Phonak), Benoit Salmon (CA), and French Champion Didier Rous and Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches La Boulangère) .

By the top of the climb Jaksche seemed to have opened enough gap to start thinking about a victory, however he came in to a turn too fast and collided with a rock face.

As he explained on the CSC Website "I came very fast into the turn and my whole left side took the blow. At first I was afraid, I had broken my collar bone. I didn't fall off the bike, but my hand got hurt pretty bad. I tried to keep ahead but it was impossible because of the pain," said the German rider after finishing with his gloves and shirt covered in blood. Jaksche needed stitches – four in the left hand - and it is as yet uncertain, whether he will make the start of the second stage tomorrow.

Meanwhile Cooke, surprising many with his performance on this day of cols and descents powered back to the leaders and attacked under the flame rouge .Those two tough men Michele Bartoli and Laurent Brochard responded and nearly caught the Australian but it turned out to be another day for Cooke and the fifth FdJeux.com victory of the season.

CSC with five men in the vital action were happy with the days racing too-

"If it hadn't been for Jörg's crash, we would have won with flying colors. He had the lead and behind him we had four very strong guys. Jens Voigt escaped with the pursuers and Bartoli rode a great sprint and was only a few centimeters from winning. We have had an excellent start to the race and I am very optimistic about the coming stages," said Bjarne Riis.

Result Stage 1
1 B. COOKE (AUS - FDJ) 2h46'36"
2 M. BARTOLI (ITA - CSC) m.t.
3 L. BROCHARD (FRA - A2R) m.t.
4 J. VOIGT (ALL - CSC) m.t.
5 M. BOOGERD (HOL - RAB) m.t.
6 S. MASCIARELLI (ITA - VIN) m.t.
7 B. JULICH (USA - CSC) m.t.
8 C. DESSEL (FRA - PHO) m.t.
9 F. PELLIZOTTI (ITA - ALS) m.t.
10 D. FOFONOV (KAZ - COF) m.t.

General Classification
1 B. COOKE (AUS - FDJ) 2h46'36"
2 M. BARTOLI (ITA - CSC) 0.4.
3 L. BROCHARD (FRA - A2R) 0.6.
4 J. VOIGT (ALL - CSC) 0.10.
5 M. BOOGERD (HOL - RAB) m.t.
6 S. MASCIARELLI (ITA - VIN) m.t.
7 B. JULICH (USA - CSC) m.t.
8 C. DESSEL (FRA - PHO) m.t.
9 F. PELLIZOTTI (ITA - ALS) m.t.
10 D. FOFONOV (KAZ - COF) m.t

Tour Méditerranéen (2.3) Preview

Please visit the Official Site

Sixteen teams, 128 riders, will start tomorrow at Cannet-Rocheville (Alpes-Maritimes) in the 31st Tour Méditerranéen. The race will finish with a new concept – a team time trial where individual times will count on a cycling monument, Mont Faron.

The Tour Méditerranéen has 5 stages covering 552 kilomètres. Seven 1st category climbs the first on Wednesday, La Turbie (415 m), and the last in the team time trial on Sunday, Mont Faron (544 m).

Paolo Bettini returns to defend the jersey he won last year in the Tour Méditerranéen, and the race will see the appearance of many of the other top names of cycling.

The Quick Step - Davitamon will bring a super strong squad to help defend the jersey - Bettini, Bodrogi, Bramati, Horrillo, Hulsmans, Paolini, Virenque and Zanini. Their rivals are also sending heavyweight squads; Team CSC give an early outing to Tour favourite Ivan Basso, however the “Warrior”, Michele Bartoli will be a pre race favourite.

In form Laurent Brochard, who finished second last year will also be riding as will last years third placed man Sylvain Chavanel.

Cofidis will have current World Road Race Champion Igor Astarloa, while Phonak will have a Oscar Camenzind and Nicolas Jalabert. Rabobank will have Bram de Groot, who finished fourth last year as well as Boogerd and Liepheimer.

Fans of the fast men will be keen to see the return of “Super Mario”, yes the lion king is back, but can Mario Cipollini return to his winning ways? Baden Cooke (Fdjeux.com) would seem to be his main rival in the race.

Race organiser, former Tour de France winner Lucien Aimar, has once again produced an “interesting parcours”.

The Stages

Parcours copyright Tour de Mediterraneen

1- 11.02 Le Cannet -> Mentone 109 kms

2 -12.02 La Londe des Maures -> Hyéres 130kms

3 - 13.02 Rousset -> Berre l'Etang 128kms

4 - 14.02 Greasque -> Marignane 150kms

5 - 15.02 La Garde -> Toulon Mont Faron, TTT 42kms

As the excellent Wim Van Rossum of Cycling4All points out, “Lucien Aimar likes to introduce a brand new discipline in international cycling: a stage for teams but not a time trial. In the last stage on February 15, a climb from Lagarde to the top of the Mont Faron near Toulon, the teams will start every 3 minutes. But the time for each rider will count, and not the total team-time. So the climbers in the team are not longer depending on slower riders, but can go as fast as possible with support of special teammates. The individual time will decide the general classification at the end of this last stage of the Tour.”

To read more visit Cycling4All.

Teams Alessio-Bianchi, AG2R Prévoyance, Brioches La Boulangère, CSC, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, De Nardi, Domina Vacanze, FDJeux.com, Jacques-Wincor, Oktos-MBK, Phonak Hearing Systems, Quick Step-Davitamon, Ragt Semences-MG Rover, Rabobank - Vini Caldirola.

Last Year's Top Ten
1 Paolo Bettini Quick Step-Davitamon 12.54.40
2 Laurent Brochard Ag2r Prevoyance 0.16
3 Sylvain Chavanel Brioches La Boulangere 0.23
4 Bram De Groot Rabobank 0.36
5 Thor Hushovd Credit Agricole 0.41
6 Michael Boogerd Rabobank 0.50
7 Thomas Voeckler Brioches La Boulangere 1.04
8 Beat Zberg Rabobank 1.10
9 Mirko Celestino Saeco 1.26
10 Roberto Petito Fassa Bortolo 1.42

Team Notes

AG2R Prévoyance : Christophe Agnolutto (FRA), Laurent Brochard (FRA), Samuel Dumoulin (FRA), Andy Flickinger (FRA), Stéphane Goubert (FRA), Yuriy Krivtsov (UKR), Christophe Oriol (FRA) and Nicolas Portal (FRA)

After a very successful campaign in the Etoile des Bessèges, Laurent Brochard will be looking to go one better than last year.


Christophe Agnolutto, the popular French rider, will be making his season debut -
seen here wining Stage 7 between Tours - Limoges during the Tour De France 2001. (DP Archive photo)

Brioches La Boulangère Walter Bénéteau, Franck Bouyer, Sylvain Chavanel, Anthony Geslin, Christophe Kern, Laurent Lefevre, Didier Rous, Thomas Voeckler

Didier Rous and Sylvain Chavanel will be keen to reminf French fans there is more to the team than Mr Beloki.

Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf : Raivis Belohvosciks (LET), Florent Brard (FRA), Dave Bruylandts (BEL), Denys Kostyuk (UKR), Chris Peers (BEL), Maxim Rudenko (UKR), Geert Verheyen (BEL) and Cezary Zamana (POL)

The team are wanting to gain a Tour de France invite – now is the time to make a good impression

Cofidis: Igor Astarloa (ESP), Frédéric Bessy (FRA), Médéric Clain (FRA), Christophe Edaleine (FRA), Dimitri Fofonov (KAZ), David Moncoutié (FRA), Hayden Roulston (NZL) and Cédric Vasseur (FRA) –

The team are making headlines in France for two reasons, the debut of Igor Astarloa and the return of Cedric Vasseur following his questioning by French Police. Guess which story is making the bigger headlines? A shame really, Moncoutié and Astarloa could be race winners.

Crédit Agricole : Alexandre Botcharov (RUS), Julian Dean (NZL), Patrice Halgand (FRA), Sébastien Hinault (FRA), Sébastien Joly (FRA), Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ), Benoît Salmon (FRA) and Bradley Wiggins (GBR)

Sprinter Julian Dean is in fine form and Hagland usually does well .

CSC : Kurt-Asle Arvesen (NOR), Michele Bartoli (ITA), Ivan Basso (ITA), Jörg Jaksche (ALL), Bobby Julich (USA), Andrea Peron (ITA), Jakob Piil (DAN) and Jens Voigt (ALL)

Bobby Julich, talking on the CSC website, made the following observations- “Tour Med has always been an important race,” says Julich. “For many riders it's the first 'real' race of the year, and on a personal note, I've previously done well in the Tour Med. I think there's a great chance we could start off with a big result for the team, especially after we really got our time-trial bikes together and practiced the technique at the training camp in Lucca.”

The final and probably decisive stage of the Tour Mediterranéen is a team time-trial - and then again, maybe not.

“Well, I guess the first 30 kilometers will be a team time-trial and then it will be an individual time-trial for the last 5 kilometers,” says the US-rider, trying to describe the very special kind of “team time-trial” which takes the riders up Mont Faron on the final kilometers.

Usually it's the fifth rider of the team, who sets the time for all riders. In this case, however, each rider will get his individual time, but still have the possibility of getting help along the way by his team mates.

“It's gonna be exciting. Usually when things like this come up, people tend to think it's no good. But who knows? Perhaps this is the future of racing,” says Julich. “One thing is for sure, it's the same for everyone, and I believe a very organized team will have the best chances in this particular discipline.”

After suffering from a bad stomach, Team CSC's Jörg Jaksche has been cleared for the Tour Méditerranéen starting on Wednesday in Le Cannet, France.

"I've spoken with Jaksche this morning, and he's feeling much better," says sports director Alain Gallopin.

De Nardi : Ruggero Borghi (ITA), Simone Cadamuro (ITA), Leonardo Giordani (ITA), Serhiy Honchar (UKR), Mirko Lorenzetto (ITA), Igor Pugaci (MOL), Andrea Rossi (ITA) and Alessandro Vanotti (ITA)

"Once the Tour de Med starts we all know that the season has well and truly started” said team manager Gianluigi Stanga – “The victory of Cadamuro in Doha and the second spot of Miorin on the fourth stage in the Tour de Langkawi are good signs that our first season in Gs1 will be a success”.

Domina Vacanze : Andrus Aug (LET), Mario Cipollini (ITA), Gabriele Colombo (ITA), Martin Derganc (SLO), Gian-Matteo Fagnini (ITA), Alessio Galetti (ITA), Andris Naudusz (LET) and Mario Scirea (ITA)

Mario Cipollini suffered no serious ill effects from his fall during the Gran Premio de la Costa Etrusca.

"The Tour Méditerranéen will allow us to practice and prepare for the sprint finishes of Mario Cipollini, and we also hope to win at least one stage during the race ", said Team DS, Antonio Salutini.

FDJeux.com : Sandy Casar (FRA), Baden Cooke (AUS), Bernhard Eisel (AUT), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Bradley McGee (AUS), Fabien Sanchez (FRA), Nicolas Vogondy (FRA) and Matthew Wilson (AUS)

Baden Cooke is looking very strong as is the team – Wilson, Cooke and Gilbert have all won already this season.

Phonak : Niki Aebersold (SUI), Michael Albasini (SUI), Oscar Camenzind (SUI), Cyril Dessel (FRA), Nicolas Jalabert (FRA), Alexandre Moos (SUI), Gregory Rast (SUI) and Alexandre Usov (BLR)

Usov will be looking for stages, Aebersold and Camenzind the overall.

Quick Step-Davitamon : Paolo Bettini (ITA), Laszlo Bodrogi (HON), Davide Bramati (ITA), Kevin Hulsmans (BEL), Servais Knaven (PBS), Luca Paolini (ITA), Richard Virenque (FRA) and Stefano Zanini (ITA)

Bettini returns to defend his jersey- although the French press will be concentrating on “Housewifes Choice” Richard Virenque. A very strong team from the Quickstep camp.

Rabobank : Michael Boogerd (PBS), Bram De Groot (PBS), Mathew Hayman (AUS), Marc Lotz (PBS), Levy Leipheimer (USA), Grischa Niermann (PBS), Thorwald Veneberg (PBS) and Remmert Wielinga (PBS)

Bram De Groot had an excellent season last year and USA fans will be hoping Levy Leipheimer gets something that was missing all last season – good luck!

RAGT Semences-MG Rover : Pierre Bourquenoud (SUI), Gilles Bouvard (FRA), Mickaël Buffaz (FRA), Yoann Leboulanger (FRA), Ludovic Martin (FRA), Nicolas Reynaud (FRA), Christophe Rinero (FRA) and Eddy Seigneur (FRA)

The team will no doubt produce a battling performance.

Saint-Quentin-Oktos: Sylvain Calzati (FRA), Ivaïlo Gabrovski (BUL), Maxim Gourov (KAZ), Sergey Krushevskiy (OUZ), Andrey Mizourov (UKR), Franck Pencolé (FRA), Saulius Ruskys (LIT) and Jean-Michel Tessier (FRA)

Sylvain Calzati surprised many with his “Star” performance last week-

Vini Caldirola-Nobili: Giampaolo Cheula (ITA), Mauro Gerosa (ITA), Milan Kadlec (TCH), Paolo Longo-Borhini (ITA), Marco Milesi (ITA), Gianluca Sironi (ITA), Giulio Tomi (ITA) and Mauro Zanotti (ITA)

The Italian team will be stage hunting.

Recent Winners
2003 : Paolo Bettini (ITA, Quick Step-Davitamon)
2002 : Michele Bartoli (ITA, Fassa Bortolo)
2001 : Davide Rebellin (ITA, Liquigas-Pata)
2000 : Laurent Jalabert (FRA, ONCE-Deutsche Bank)
1999 : Davide Rebellin (ITA, Polti)
1998 : Rodolfo Massi (ITA, Casino)
1997 : Emmanuel Magnien (FRA, Festina)
1996 : Frank Vandenbroucke (BEL, Mapei-GB)
1995 : Gianni Bugno (ITA, MG-Technogym)
1994 : Davide Cassani (ITA, GB-MG)


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