The nine Lotto-Domo-riders that will take part in the
coming Tour de France are Robbie McEwen, Axel Merckx, Rik Verbrugghe, Christophe
Brandt, Nick Gates, Thierry Marichal, Wim Van Sevenant, Aart Vierhouten en Koos
Moerenhout. Merckx did not start in the national championship because he had
this last week. Let’s hope that Axel is fine for the start.
After waiting out the selection process and having had a
favourable selection Lotto Domo’s Marc Sergeant was quoted on VRT Teletekst
in May; "With Robbie McEwen we have an ex-winner of the green jersey," "And with
Van Bon, Verbrugghe and Baguet we have another three stage winners. Furthermore,
the Tour starts in Liege. Could they leave us at home then?"
Obviously to the delight of fans Lotto Domo will arrive and
if any team could be called the “Belgian Team” it is Lotto Domo who will wear
that mantle in Liege.
Although Van Bon and Baquet are not on the team, the Roster
as stated carries enough strength to secure several stage wins and guide their
sprint meister Robbie McEwen to the front to capture stages. To the delight of
fans this year’s tour brings a collection of sprinters O’Grady, Cippollini,
Petacchi, amongst others.
A team that apparently has no G.C. hopes but the depth to
deliver McEwen to the line. But if we look at the team individually there is
talent not only to guide and deliver Robbie, but also a few who could provide a
surprise or two. Each of these riders are hardened by the cobbles of Belgium,
tapped with the capability to suffer and persist through the what ever is dished
out with the tour.
Lotto Domo is the 12th ranked team on the current UCI
Robbie McEwen (Australia)
UCI ranking 15, UCI points1170
Robbie had victories in two stages of the Tour de Suisse, one and the Giro and
another set of double bookends in the Tour down Under where he wore yellow on
the first day; Robbie would be happy to have as propitious a start in this years
Tour in the first few days. No doubt Robbie will be in the hunt not only for
stage victories, but to arrive in Paris wearing the Green points maillot.
Rik Verbbugghe (Belgium)
Birth date23/7/1974 (Age 30)
UCI ranking: 432, UCI points125.50
On the lotto team since turning pro in 1996. His 9th place in the 2001 Giro
d'Italia was the best performance by a Belgian rider since Claude Criquielion -
his current sporting director - in 1989 (7th).
To quote Celine Tytgat the Daily Peloton’s official Angel
in May 2002,
“Rik Verbrugghe is one of the heroes of Belgian cycling. He
has many beautiful races and stage wins on his palmares like Fleche Wallone
(2001), a stage in the Tour de France (2001 - stage 15) and by now, 2 stages in
the Giro (prologue 2001 and 7th stage 2002). So far, he has collected 11
victories in his life as a professional cyclist (since 1996) and mostly very
spectacular ones like Fleche Wallone where everybody else was dropping as
flies.” Rik is a hardman who will contribute to the teams power and is certainly
capable of stage victories.
Axel Merckx (Belgium)
UCI ranking139, UCI Points 376.50
This former team mate of Lance Armstrong, and the Belgian Road Champion in 2000
carries more than his fathers name into the race. Hopefully he isn’t dragging
from his recent bout with influenza and can show with the climbers in mountains.
Although I’ve stated that Domo has no G. C. contender, there are many fans who
would like to see the legends name once again prominent at the top.
Christophe Brandt (Belgium)
UCI ranking 419, UCI points128
Speaking of Mountains Christophe Brandt can climb evidenced by his finishes this
year while doing domestique duty on the team:
19th Tour d'Aragon, 14th
Tour d'Italie, 15th
Ster Elektro Tour. Last ride in the 2002 Tour Christophe produced 35th
in the G.C. not bad for a 25 year old. This year a bit older and wiser he could
be a sleeper in an escape and surprise on a mountain stage.
Nick Gates (Australia)
Birth date10/3/1972, Pro since1997
Often referred to as McEwens lieutenant, Gates is essential in delivering McEwen
to the line. No UCI points but a faithful domestique willing to sacrifice for
Thierry Marichal (Belgium)
UCI ranking1631, UCI points 5
This is Thierry’s fourth Tour; adding the dual benefit of experienced domestique
and hardness of a classics rider.
Wim Van Sevenant (Belgium)
UCI ranking550, UCI points 97
Van Petegem acknowledged the work of Van Sevenant, “I had fortunately been able
to count on the invaluable assistance of the faithful Wim Van Sevenant.” In his
victory at the Paris Roubaix; high marks for a valuable helper.
Aart Vierhouten (Netherlands)
UCI ranking295, UCI points188
Vierhouten’s second tour de France, yet you will remember the name often being
in the odd break in the Classics and tours. Again a faithful worker for the team
and part of the McEwen lead out conspiracy to launch the mini rocket at the
Koos Moerenhout (Netherlands)
UCI ranking 647, UCI points65
Moerenhout a stage winner in the Giro and Paris Nice. Given the opportunity by
the team he could go for a stage. Invaluable to Robbie in the set up in the last
km and for the lead out I the sprint.
Picks to watch: Rik, Brandt, Axel, and of course Rockin