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Since their shock entry to the Tour via wildcard from the seemingly-patriotic Tour boss Jean-Marie Leblanc, R.A.G.T Semences-MG Rover haven't exactly justified their selection. Indeed, the team sponsored by milk makers have been sour all year, languishing at the bottom of Division I since the beginning of the season, currently with a measly 154 points (which means that 32 Division III teams have more points). The 91st Tour de France will be make-or-break - they have to win a stage or even wear one of the prestigous jerseys to have any chance of justifying selection. On this season's evidence, only many would have to say that it was a ludicrous decision from Leblanc...
Under pressure last year after another contreversial wildcard, they came good, under the name of old sponsor Jean Delatour. Not only did Jean-Patrick Nazon wear the yellow jersey after garnishing time bonuses galore the day before the TTT, but Frederic Finot wore the King of the Mountains jersey after several audacious breakaways. On the final day, it was the sprinter Nazon who swept majestically to victory on the Champs Elysees, capitalising on the shoulder-barging between McEwen and Cooke. Unfortunately, R.A.G.T Semences have lost all their big names - barring Finot - and it is very difficult to see where a stage victory will come from.
Still, if the team is good for nothing else, they attack like the best. On the more tedious, long flat stages, it's always nice to see some small-name riders tearing their legs off in breaks, even though it's highly unlikely they'll stay away as the peloton rockets in pursuit as they near the finish. A breakaway in the first or second week will be their best stage oppurtunity, as it's very doubtful that the then-race-leader's team will be able to control the attacks and peloton till the mountains.
Born: 21st March 1976, France
Pro Since 1998 (BigMat Auber 93)
As well as being a competent time-trialist, Auger is very aggressive and it's likely that he'll pin on his dossard with red lettering as the most aggressive rider of the day at least once this Tour. And even without that, he'll be recognisable as one of the tallest men in the race, standing at 1.96m (6'4"). He caught the attention of R.A.G.T Semences last year, after a stage of the Tour de la Somme and overall victory at the Tour of the Mining Country. As well as getting into attacks, his ambition will surely be to finish.
Born: 21st November 1969, Switzerland
Pro Since 1996 (PMU Romand)
Bourquenoud is one of the best climbers in the team, though he's had a very anonymous year to date. However, his experience will be very helpful in a team full of unexperienced riders, several riding in their first Tours. The man from Switzerland also recovers well, and could be the man who finishes highest overall in the team - barring mishaps, of course.
Born: 30th October 1969, France
Pro Since 1994 (Chazal)
Another very experienced rider, Bouvard's dream is to win a stage of the Tour de France, although time is running out for the 34 year old. He's a solid climber, and could be a possible early King of the Mountain leader depending on how breaks go. Born in Bourg en Bresse, Bouvard is also very consistent who can turn in performances day after day. He also reminds me of Nicolas Cage - maybe one for Crazy Jane and the ladies then?
Born: 1st July 1979, France
Pro Since 2003 (Barloworld)
How things can change in cycling! This time last year, Calzati was riding lowly races with South African Division III outfit Team Barloworld. Now he'll be riding the biggest race in the world! Another fairly audacious rider, Calzati took 2nd overall in the Etoile des Besseges this spring. His aim will be just to reach the Champs Elysees, although a day on the attack wouldn't go amiss. He's still young, turning 25 just before the prologue, so it's likely there will be other chances and oppurtunities.
Born: 20th March 1977, France
Pro Since 1999 (Crédit Agricole)
Finot is one of the biggest names in the team, and wore the polka dot jersey as King of the Mountains for one day in last year's Tour as well as being part of a couple of lengthy attacks. Finot took third in the recent French Championship time-trial, and whilst he won't be beating Armstrong or Ullrich barring the extreme, he could do a top 20 in the prologue time-trial. Definitely one to watch out for in the first two weeks, Finot is the only survivor from last year's Delatour Tour-finishing team, as all the others have left (the majority for Ag2r Prevoyance)! With Finot, R..A.G.T Semences-MG Rover have one of the most 'attackingest' riders in the Tour peloton.
Born: 26th July 1977, France
Pro Since 2001 (Jean Delatour)
As a rider who has found a balance between sprinting and climbing, it's likely that Laurent will finish in the top 80 of the Tour de France - he's one of the R.A.G.T Semences rider who finishes races consistently constantly, albeit not highly. He was the best climber in the 2002 Tour de l'Avenir.
Born 17th March 1976, France
Pro Since 2001 (Crédit Agricole)
Excepting Seigneur's recent victory, Martin has probably been the best R.A.G.T Semences rider so far this season. A good climber, he took 31st overall in the Dauphine as well as 4th in A Travers le Morbihan two months ago. Martin is solid if unspectacular, and he's one of the most likely riders to finish in the team. It's likely he won't find himself too far behind after the first week, as the 2'30" TTT rule will benefit the team hugely.
29th December 1973, France
Pro Since 1996 (Force Sud)
Since his surprising 4th at the 1998 Tour de France and Polka Dot overall win, Rinero's career has gone downhill rapidly. After failing to come anywhere close to that result, he left Cofidis for Saint Quentin-Oktos in 2002 before joining this team in 2004, attracting their attention through second in the Paris-Correze and third in the Tour de la Somme. Again, I doubt he'll get anywhere near 4th overall, but remains one of the team's best climbers.
15th February 1969, France
Pro Since 1992 (Z)
Seigneur is the oldest man on the team - he was in the Z lineup when Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle won Paris-Roubaix - but probably the best. His French National ITT win last weekend was the team's first, and will have been a massive morale boost going into the Tour. Seigneur was the last man to win on the Champs Elysees when there wasn't a bunch sprint - in 1994 - and whilst it looks unlikely he'll do that again, he may be looking to enjoy what could be his last Tour with one or two attacks or top 20s in time-trials.
Thanks to the team's official site for photos and information!