Leblanc: T-Mobile is the challenger

Tour boss Jean-Marie LeBlanc says the greatest threat to Lance Armstrong's hopes of a seventh...

Tour boss Jean-Marie LeBlanc says the greatest threat to Lance Armstrong's hopes of a seventh consecutive victory comes from the T-Mobile team. "The opposition seems to be richer than in previous years," LeBlanc told AFP. "I see first the coalition of T-Mobile. This is not Armstrong against Ullrich, but against a trio that also includes Klöden and Vinokourov. The addition of Vinokourov is very important to me, he is a complete racer and a fine tactician. Then there is the Landis-Botero tandem, two racers that have nothing to lose if they play their cards. Basso is an interesting racer. It's a pity that Cunego won't be there, I would have liked to have seen him in this company."

Reflecting on Lance Armstrong's imminent retirement, LeBlanc said that he had brought to the Tour a new level of professionalism in his reconnaissance of the course, choice of equipment and team discipline. "On the whole, it was a previously unknown level of commitment for him and his team-mates."

Asked if there were any negatives to Armstrong's domination of the Tour in the last six years, LeBlanc said, "The repetitiveness of his six victories is not his fault if his challengers were mediocre in their behaviour and the balance of their cycling season," said Leblanc, "He made the Tour more a priority and ipso facto he gave less importance to the other races. There is a huge interest [in the Tour] because of his choice. But he has roots and commitments in the US and it was therefore hard for him to spend nine months in Europe. He chose to carry out his work in a hard way and I understand that it has become harder and harder."

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