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Crédit Agricole for the Tour
By Andy McGrath
Date: 7/2/2004
Crédit Agricole for the Tour

Please visit the Crédit Agricole team site.

With a team sponsored by domestic banking giants, Crédit Agricole have invested wisely in some better riders, and they probably have the most star-studded French-based squad, barring Cofidis. With Christophe Moreau, 2001 Tour prologue winner, as leader on the road, there are talented climbers in Fedrigo, Botcharov and Salmon but also chances in the sprint with Hushovd and Dean. It's a very complete team with few noticeable weaknesses, and they can definitely put in a good performance, throwing off the image that 'C.A' are only good for attacks, like some of their French counterparts. Watch out for this team on the road; they have a new outlook, and a new hunger for success with that. With the head sponsor's recent contract extension to 2006, you know that these banking boys mean business.

Alexandre Botcharov
Born: 26 February 1975, Russia
This diminutive Eastern European was snapped up at the end of the season from rivals AG2r Prévoyance, and with his light body frame (as well as the light Look bicycle frame!) he has the perfect build for a climber. Botcharov is definitely in good form of the Tour too, taking third in a breakaway sprint stage of the Route du Sud, 8th in the Classique des Alpes as well as a solid 20th overall at the Dauphine. With 24th overall in last year's Tour, Botcharov will be handy for Moreau in the climbs and could possibly finish in the top 20 overall. He got close to Tour stage victories in 2001 and 2002, and he may grab an elusive etape this year.

Julian Dean
Born: 28 Janruary 1975, New Zealand
Dean has been riddled with unfortunate injuries this season, though this may mean he comes to the Tour with fresher legs and fresher enthusiasm. The New Zealander was one of many new faces at the start of the season, poached after an impressive 2003, from CSC. It's likely - a bit unfortunately - that his ambitions may be put aside to lead out Thor Hushovd. Nonetheless, if Dean gets a bit of independence, he's a good bet for a top 10 sprint finish.

Pierrick Fedrigo
Born: 30 November 1978, France
It's been a breakthrough year for Fedrigo, after taking a Tour de l'Avenir stage last year. He has been sublime in French races, finishing third in the Route Adelie and A Travers le Morbihan, as well as taking fourth overall at the Four Days of Dunkirk and seventh at the Trophee des Grimpeurs. Fedrigo is an aggressive climber, as we saw at last year's Tour, and Crédit Agricole will be hoping for a few more forays on the climbs from Fedrigo.

Patrice Halgand
Born: 2 March 1974, France
Only recently has Halgand looked like recreating the form that got him and Jean Delatour a first Tour stage win in 2002. Halgand is a solid climber, taking 40th in last year's Tour, although hilly stages suit him more. With fifth overall at the Route du Sud, it looks like the man from Saint Nazaire is gauging his form right. He's likely to be one of the men in the attack on the more bumpy stages.

Sébastien Hinault
Born: 11 February 1974, France
Of no relation to the great Bernard 'The Badger' Hinault, this namesake took a surprise sprint victory in the Tour of Germany when the roads were slippery with rain. He put his head down, and emerged with the win! Hinault is a competent sprinter, but he may find any personal ambitions he holds quashed by lead-out duties.

Thor Hushovd
Born: 18 Janruary 1978, Norway
It's already been a good season for Hushovd, as he's ruled the roost in France, with several French Cup victories and sprint stages in the Dauphine Libere and Tour Languedoc-Rousillon respectively. He also took both the Norwegian road and time-trial titles last weekend. Hushovd is the team's best obvious bet for the green jersey and a stage; with immense power, Hushovd is very fast in the last 300m of races. He has a fair chance of getting podium placings in one or two, and who's to say victory is beyond him? Hushovd is also a good time-trialist, and a top 20 prologue should be viable for the Scandinavian.

Sébastien Joly
Born: 25 June 1979, France
After attracting the attention of these French banking giants after shining with Jean Delatour last season, Joly has been much quieter this year: his only result to date being a seventh from a Tour of Switzerland breakaway. Joly is, however, an aggressive rider and will likely be good for publicity for Crédit Agricole, in long, lonely breakaways. His main ambition should be to just reach the Champs Elysees, although he may have a chance of prestigous selection in Crazy Jane's team with his chiselled Gallic looks.

Christophe Moreau
Born: 12 April 1971, France
Moreau still carries the overall hopes of France on his shoulders, as they long for victory in 'their' race. Indeed, the man from Belfort is a big favourite to be the best Frenchman, having taken eighth in 2003. Easily recognisable with his goatee and tongue-lolling habit, Moreau attained a morale-soaring victory in the Tour Languedoc-Rousillon as well as a stage there. He also showed his climbing prowess, not too ironically in the Trophee des Grimpeurs (Trophy of the Climbers). Recently, a narrow second in the French national ITT - where he led for much of it - showed he can also do well against the clock. Moreau is a good bet for a top 10 finish, and with less tough mountains till the third week, he may improve on last year's performance. To be honest though, it's hard to see how he can win a stage without a breakaway - he's 'only' good at climbing, and 'only' good at time-trialing; seemingly, he's not specialised in either to actually win a stage. Nonetheless, Moreau - determined to finish on the Tour podium before turning his attentions elsewhere - will have the lucky '51' dossard for the 2004 Tour...

Benoit Salmon
Born: 9th May 1974, France
Signed from Phonak in the off-season, Salmon has only shown good condition recently, with an encouraging 10th at the Route du Sud and third in the French road championships, beating in a three-up sprint. A strong climber, he took second in the Classics of the Alps last year. His recuperation is questionable, but Salmon will be looking to return to the form of 1999 which saw him take the white jersey with 16th overall. He's definitely an outsider for a top 20 place - when he's in good form, he's very good on the climbs.

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