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Tour de France: Quick Step-Davitamon Preview
By Locutus
Date: 7/2/2004
Tour de France: Quick Step-Davitamon Preview

Thanks to the official Quick Step-Davitamon team site and to for photos and information.

Quick Step-Davitamon is a Belgian squad with an international flavor who can beat their rivals in a lot of different ways. With a host of veterans touting scores of victories, the Steppies are coming into this Tour as a major force in the race for stage wins. With their riders, they can win a stage on any terrain, be it in the mountains, the flats, the time trials, the bunch sprints… you name it, and they can win it. In addition, they bring the defending champ in the mountains competition and a couple of men capable of high finishes in the General Classification.

#101: Richard Virenque (Fra) . Born on November 19, 1969, "His Royal Highness, King" Richard is one of the most controversial figures in the sport. Love him or hate him, his wins over the years have made him one of the great veterans of the sport. Last year in the Tour he had a spectacular comeback, taking Stage 7 into Morzine and the Yellow Jersey. While he only held the Yellow Jersey for one day, he continued to storm the mountains to take his sixth victory in the King of the Mountains competition by the time he reached Paris. This year he will again be vying for the Polka-Dot Jersey, though some new rules may make the going much more difficult for him (this year, the final climb of each stage that is Cat 2 or higher is worth double points, which will benefit riders with GC ambitions). Still, look for "King" Richard to be grimacing off the front when the road goes up, doing his best to give the home fans something to cheer about.

#102: Paolo Bettini (Ita) . Born on April 1, 1974, Bettini has made a fool of many of his rivals over the years. He has won the overall World Cup competition for the past two years, and is considered the most dangerous one-day racer in the world right now. He's won stages of the Giro d'Italia as well as such venerable classics as Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and the Clasica San Sebastian. He was the world's #1 rider in 2003 according to the UCI points system, and he is currently 3rd (behind Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel) in the UCI points rankings heading into the Tour. Bettini had great form in the Spring, but didn't come up with the big results, so he will be hungry for a stage victory before Paris.

#103: Tom Boonen (Bel) . Born on October 15, 1980, the young Boonen has had a breakthrough season so far by smoking his rivals repeatedly in the sprints. While Quick Step-Davitamon has several riders who are threats for breakaway wins, Boonen will be their man when the big bunch comes to the line together. Boonen has commented that he is looking forward to testing himself against the likes of Petacchi and Cipollini on the roads of France, and the show that these fast men provide should light up the first two weeks of the Tour. However, as Boonen's recent win in the Prologue of the SterElecktrotoer shows, he could also be a threat to take the Yellow Jersey in the first few days of racing.

#104: Davide Bramati (Ita) . Born on June 28, 1968, this veteran Italian is a strong all-around rider who will be used to provide support to his mates. Like everyone on the team, he is a danger for the breaks (he has a Vuelta a España stage victory amongst his wins), but he will likely be kept in reserve to lead out Boonen in the sprints and to help Bettini and Virenque however he can.

#105: Laurent Dufaux (Swi) . Born on May 20, 1969, Dufaux is a veteran climber who has been a friend (and sometime teammate) of Virenque for a long time. Earlier in his career he was a major threat in the big stage races: he won stages of the Tour and the Vuelta a España, and the overall at the Route du Sud and the Tour de Romandie. Last year, riding for Alessio, he finished 21st in the GC of the Tour at 33' 17", but he was 2nd in the mountains competition behind Virenque. This year, he will likely ride in the service of his old friend as Virenque tries for his seventh Polka-Dot Jersey.

#106: Servais Knaven (Ned) . Born on March 6, 1971, this eleven-year veteran is another dangerous man who could sneak into a breakaway and steal a stage. In fact, that's exactly what he did last year on Stage 17 of the Tour into Bordeaux: Knaven got into a solid break of ten men, and then made a bold move to solo to victory 17 seconds ahead of his companions. He won Paris-Roubaix in 2001, demonstrating his power and ability to ride over the cobbles. If he gets the chance, he can drive home a break like few others and could frustrate the sprinters again this year.

#107: Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) . Born on August 7th, 1978, Mercado is a pure climber who made the jump from when they ended their sponsorship last year. While riding under the Banesto banner, Mercado racked up a number of wins and showed his class in the Grand Tours. Mercado's recent 4th place in the Mont Ventoux time trial of the Dauphiné Libéré—behind Mayo, Hamilton, and Sevilla and one place better than Armstrong—shows that he is on form and ready for the hills in July. His weakness in the flat time trials prevents him from being a major GC threat, but he is clearly capable of making some noise and winning some stages in this year's climber-friendly Tour. He could also pull off a top ten finish if he can hold his form for the full three weeks.

#108: Michael Rogers (Aus). Born on the 20th of December in 1979, Rogers is one of the up-and-coming young GC threats who could really make a mark on the race this year. He has been keeping a low profile in the races leading up to the Tour, saving himself for the big dance. But the big question for Rogers is how much he will have to work for veterans like Virenque and Bettini. Last year, Rogers buried himself while helping His Majesty Virenque defend his various jerseys. If allowed to ride for himself, Rogers has the time-trialing ability and the climbing power to land in the top ten come Paris. Unless he really does something dramatic early on, however, he may have to accomplish his goals with little team support.

#109: Stefano Zanini (Ita). Born on January 23rd, 1969, this veteran sprinter has some very impressive wins to his credit. Most notably, Zanini won the final sprint into Paris to conclude the 2000 Tour de France. Riding for Saeco last year, he won the big Wachovia USPRO Championship in Philadelphia. As these results show, Zanini is a great rider in his own right who can win a stage; however, this year Zanini will be seen most often as the final man in the Boonen leadout train during the bunch sprints.

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