T Mobile Tour de France Team
T Mobile have announced their nine men who will be riding the Tour de France.
They are –
Jan Ullrich (Germany), Alexander Vinokourov (Kazakhstan), Andreas Klöden (Germany), Stephan Schreck (Germany), Daniele Nardello (Italy), Oscar Sevilla (Spain), Matthias Kessler (Germany), Tobias Steinhauser (Germany), and Giuseppe Guerini (Italy)
"We are all crossing our fingers for Jan Ullrich to fulfill his dream of winning another yellow jersey. But a victory can't be planned - there are too many variables at play," Martin Knauer, Marketing Director for T-Mobile Germany, said on Wednesday at the presentation of the company's nine-man Tour team at T-Mobile's headquarters in Bonn. The team will expect even more support than usual this year since the Tour also features two German stages: one in Karlsruhe on July 8 and one in Pforzheim on July 9.
Ullrich, who again this year was at the Tour de Suisse to add the finishing touches to his preparations for his latest Tour assault, is looking forward to the first stage on July 2 in Fromentine. "I have always said that a Tour victory is more valuable if Lance Armstrong is participating. I will do everything I can to beat him in his last appearance on the Tour," said the 31-year-old, for whom the American's announced retirement provides "additional motivation."
In his quest for the yellow jersey the German cyclist, who lives in Switzerland, has a top-class partner at his side - Alexander Vinokourov. The Kazakh was forced to sit on the sidelines last year after a heavy crash during the Tour de Suisse, but is now also in excellent shape. The Kazakh demonstrated his top form most recently at the Dauphiné Libéré in early June when he soloed to an impressive stage win atop the mythical Mont Ventoux.
T-Mobile sports director Mario Kummer is confident that his team will ride a "good and successful Tour" as it did in 2004. Last year, the elite Bonn-based team took second (Klöden) and fourth (Ullrich) places, as well as taking home the best team classification.
"We'll be at the starting line in France with a strong, motivated team in which everyone contributes their strengths," emphasizes Kummer, who considers the Pyrenees and the challenging time trial in the second-to-last stage in St. Etienne to be the crunch points in this year's race.
However, Kummer rates Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel team as the favorites: "Lance will enter the race with a team tailored to him and take control of the field." The American aims to seal an unprecedented seventh straight Tour de France victory in his final appearance in the race.
For this reason, Kummer believes that "It won't be any easier for the other teams. Armstrong will again be particularly motivated. Lately, his form has been improving sharply. He'll be the one to beat for a Tour victory again this year."
However, the 33-year-old Texan has to be prepared to fight off strong competition. In addition to Jan Ullrich, his competitors include Ivan Basso, captain of the Danish CSC team. Switzerland's Phonak team will be sending the duo of long-time Armstrong sidekick Floyd Landis and former T-Mobile pro Santiago Botero to co-lead its team in the race. Spaniards Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) and Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) are also contenders.