World champion Rui Costa to lead Italian team
Lampre-Merida team manager Brent Copeland has announced a long list of 11-riders for the Tour de France built around world champion Rui Costa who is aiming for a high overall placing.
Costa joined the team to purse his ambitions of leading a team at the Tour, an opportunity he did not have at Movistar with Nairo Quintana and Alejando Valverde ahead of him in the pecking order.
Chris Horner, who is making his comeback to racing at the Tour de Slovénie after being hit a car, may be the team's second GC option while Sacha Modolo has been selected for the sprint stages.
"There is no reason to hide the fact that the Tour is a great event," Copeland told Tuttobiciweb. "It is the most important race in the world and this year Lampre-Merida line up with GC ambitions. We will try to do well and we want to get the best possible result. In particular we want to see how far our world champion Rui Costa can get as he will test himself in a three-week race against the best riders in the world.
"We must bring the best possible team and everybody knows that they have to arrive at this race in top condition and with the right mentality. We will evaluate each of them on their physical condition and what they have done in the season so far. One thing is certain: no one has a guaranteed spot."
Horner was to lead the team at the Giro d'Italia in preparation of the defence of his Vuelta de España title only for his training crash to derail his early season plans. Copeland explained that the four-day Tour de Slovénie will be s test of his condition before the Tour's Grand Depart on July 5.
"Now he goes to Slovénie to find the race rhythm after his serious accident," Copeland said.
Costa's overall ambitions will be helped by climbers José Serpa, Kristijan Durasek and Rafael Valls and compatriot Nelson Oliveira who is likely to look after the world champion on the flat.
Matteo Bono and Filippo Pozzato could play a similar role to Oliveria with Pozzato's expertise on the Cobbles a possible factor in his inclusion.
"He wants to compete with the best in the world," Copeland said. "At his side, he could have experienced riders like Cimolai, Richeze and Oliveira who are able to guide him through the hectic finales."
"Pozzato is also the right man for the cobbles but he is not the only one as Horner, Cimolai, Modolo, Bono and Richeze also have good experiences on this surface.
"In short, these eleven have all the attributes to ensure that the team will deliver a good performance and as I said before, no one can feel assured that they already have a ticket to Leeds."
Having won stage five of the Tour de Suisse, Modolo gets the call up for his maiden Tour although the places of his lead out men, Maximiliano Richeze and Davide Cimolai, is yet to be decided.
Lampre-Merida long list for the Tour de France: Rui Costa, Chris Horner, Sacha Modolo, José Serpa, Nelson Oliveira, Kristijan Ðurasek, Rafael Valls, Matteo Bono, Filippo Pozzato, Maximiliano Richeze and Davide Cimolai.
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