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Davitamon-Lotto for the Tour
 
By Staff
Date: 6/30/2005
Davitamon-Lotto for the Tour
 

By Jan Janssens

Davitamon-Lotto had a great Giro earlier this season, with Robbie ‘Alessandro who?McEwen taking a few stages, and with climbing revelation Wim Van Huffel mixing it up with the big boys on a few occasions. Ironically though, their most successful rider - McEwen - seems to have become the victim of that success: team manager Marc Sergeant decided once and for all that it’s not a good thing to put all his eggs in one basket; or in this case all his riders on the same sprinting chain gang. He’s preaching balance, and thus McEwen’s request (well, demand) to have at least 5 riders riding exclusively for him at the Tour is gleefully denied. Not that it’s a big drama, we all know that Robbie can do it by himself if he needs to.

And it’s not like the guys Davitamon-Lotto is bringing who aren’t specifically designated to help out McEwen are bums, either: with Cadel Evans they’ve got a talented rider for the overall, provided he stays in one piece. I would recommend sending Evans on a training camp with McEwen, one of the best bike handlers in the business…yet I fear that the level of Mighty Mac’s teachings might be a few light years ahead of Evans’ current skill. It’d be like Pantani teaching Dierckxens how to climb, I’m afraid. But I digress.

For all the ways he has been wronged, the little Napoleon from down under still has a pretty kick-ass collection of helpers, one of the best in the business – it’s just that not all of them are at the Tour. But there’s Leon Van Bon who, apart from looking cool in his brand new national jersey, can provide some first-rate support in the last few kms of any race. Or Fred Rodriguez, who will be sacrificing his own sprinting chances for Robbie. In the Tour de Suisse we could see that the cooperation between these guys was still lacking a bit in the routine department, but I’ll tell you one thing: Freddy was going hard in those final kms, holy crap! McEwen not being in his wheel was the only flaw, one which they’ll have to work on in the Tour. But the potential is there!

Then, for the unsung heroes (that are now officially, erh, un-unsung?): Wim Vansevenant and Johan Vansummeren. Vansevenant is a double-hard bastard: he’s like a helper for the whole team at once, juggling water bottles and aiming liquid foods into his teammates’ mouths (he missed out on a career as a quarterback, probably not pretty enough), at the same time riding at the front of the peloton. He’s so dedicated that he not only pushes his own teammates on climbs, he’ll push anyone near him, which lands him a -5000 negative score in the green jersey every year. Well, okay, I was exaggerating a bit in these last few lines, but you get the point: one of the best helpers in the business. Selfless, reliable, tough.

Johan Vansummeren isn’t really exclusively McEwen material, but because he’s the youngest guy on the team (and together with Evans the only Tour novice) he’ll have to fill that roll from time to time. His true specialty is riding hard, be it at the front of a peloton, in a breakaway, in a TT or in the mountains. A promising rider who always giving everything he’s got. Now that we covered the flat(ter) department, let’s take a peek at the mountain kids.

Lots of experience there in backup of Evans: Mario Aerts, Christophe Brandt and Axel Merckx; all veterans of four Tours or more. Aerts returned to the safety of the Lotto team after a failed adventure at T-Mobile and seems to have given up on any overall ambitions he once had, instead becoming a part-time helper and stage-hunter. Merckx already decided the same thing a long time ago, and because of his name he’s a sponsors’ favourite – the name Merckx isn’t only a burden. As for Christophe ‘Methadone Man’ Brandt…after an unfortunate turn of events last year, Brandt has cleared himself from all doping charges. Not that surprising, if you know that the Davitamon-Lotto team doctor is said to have burst out in laughter once he heard that they found methadone (of all things) in his urine. But laughable or not, Brandt is aware that he now has the stigma of ‘doper kicked out of the Tour’, and will do anything he can to prove his remaining critics wrong. Hopefully for him, his righteous anger will land him a nice stage win.

Damn, I almost forgot about the man these guys are all supposed to be riding for: Colla…erh, Cadel Evans. Personally, I think the Davitamon management is showing great confidence in Evans to immediately let him ride as team leader (with some decent support, which can’t be said of every team…I’m looking at you, Quick-Step) in the Tour. But that confidence isn’t misplaced: Evans has shown glimpses of great promise, and has really only been held back by injuries so far.  He won’t win this race, but a top 10 - sure, why not? If his early season injuries didn’t mess up his preparation too much and he can stay in one piece, who knows what he can do? A good climber, good sprint, over average TT’ist…looking good. Also note that I claimed that Savoldelli ‘wouldn’t win this race’ with regard to the Giro earlier this year…if that’s any indication, Evans is going to ride the crap out of the likes of Armstrong, Ullrich and Co.

To conclude: Nice team with a major point of attraction in the double green jersey Robbie McEwen. He’s a (the?) top candidate for green, and is sure to take a stage or two. But the team also has a few stage hunters that can do it in the middle and/or high mountains if they get lucky. An attractive team, expect to see them a lot. And if they don’t win things, they’ll at least provide some side-spectacle: McEwen taking on two-times-his-size Boonen in a fistfight, scientists making an amazing discovery of a third collarbone in Evans’ body (which he then breaks), Brandt testing positive for both sleeping pills and washing powder and Vansevenant getting DQ’ed for sexual harassment of female spectators on the slopes of the Galibier while in pushing mode. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!

 
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