T-Mobile announces Tour de France line-up

After casting a final look at their riders’ form at the recently concluded Tour de Suisse and Vuelta...

After casting a final look at their riders’ form at the recently concluded Tour de Suisse and Vuelta a Asturias, T-Mobile Team manager Olaf Ludwig and Tour de France sporting director Rudy Pevenage have finalised their roster for the 2006 Tour de France. Giuseppe Guerini, Matthias Kessler, Oscar Sevilla and Patrik Sinkewitz have secured the last four places in the line-up. The four now team up with the five riders, already nominated to the core roster in January: Serguei Gonchar, Andreas Klöden, Eddy Mazzoleni, Michael Rogers and Jan Ullrich.

Olaf Ludwig admitted that it wasn't an easy decision to make. "We were in the fortunate position to have a shortlist of 12 strong candidates to choose from." Asturias overall winner Oscar Sevilla was the last to cement his place in the line-up. "In the end we opted for another pure climber over a so-called rouleur," explained Pevenage. Meanwhile, the Italian Lorenzo Bernucci will be on stand-by as first reserve to slot in, should one of the nine nominees make a late withdrawal.

Team manager Ludwig believes Guerini, Kessler, Sevilla and Sinkewitz have performed solidly in the last weeks and months. Stephan Schreck and Sergey Ivanov were the other names on the Tour short-list right up the final decision. "They were in contention", says Ludwig. "But eventually we had to make the final decision." Schreck, who made his Tour debut last year, has struggled to follow-up on his solid 2005 season, while "Bernucci just about edged out Ivanov for the reserve spot," added Pevenage.

Pevenage, Ludwig and captain Jan Ullrich have huge belief in two riders, who, for different reasons, have struggled to make a mark on the season so far: Andreas Klöden and Eddy Mazzoleni. Ullrich is convinced that Klöden, Tour runner-up in 2004, will come good at the right time: "Andreas is a brick, he will find his best form." Ludwig shares the same faith in Klöden: "We will be able to count on him when the Tour hits the mountains." Mazzoleni, who since January has been assured of his place in the roster, has been able to make the Tour de France the front and centre of his entire season planning.

"We are taking a fantastic team to the start line," added Ullrich in praise of the eight teammates who will support his latest bid for a second overall Tour win. The captain judges the team’s solid Giro and Tour de Suisse campaigns as evidence of "the great mood in the camp and the potential within the team." He himself is "extremely satisfied" with his form-building; the overall win in Switzerland has given him "enormous self-confidence." In addition to the overall victory, T-Mobile is also looking to win the Best Team Classification, which it has already done at the past two Tours.

The T-Mobile team to the 2006 Tour de France will therefore be: Giuseppe Guerini (36/Italy), Serguei Gonchar (35/Ukraine), Matthias Kessler (27/Germany), Andreas Klöden (30/ Germany), Eddy Mazzoleni (32/Italy), Michael Rogers (26/Australia), Patrik Sinkewitz (25/ Germany), Oscar Sevilla (30/Spain) and Jan Ullrich (32/ Germany).

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