Barloworld for the plains and the mountains
This year's Tour de France (July 5-27) is rapidly approaching and participating teams are busy defining their respective line-ups for the greatest bike race on earth. Team Barloworld's roster is almost complete and will be confirmed after the Ster Elektrotoer stage race in Holland that ends on Saturday.
The following riders have been pre-selected for the Tour de France: Mauricio Soler (Colombia), Robert Hunter (South Africa), Baden Cooke (Australia), Felix Cárdenas (Colombia), Paolo Longo Borghini (Italy), Moises Dueñas Nevado (Spain), Giampaolo Cheula (Italy), John-Lee Augustyn (South Africa) and Christopher Froome (Kenya). The reserves are: Hugo Sabido (Portugal) and Diego Caccia (Italy).
The line-up is designed to be competitive in both the flat stages early in the race and on the high mountains, where Mauricio Soler hopes to confirm his results of last year when he won a stage and the polka-dot climber's jersey on the final podium in Paris.
"We can't automatically expect to get the same impressive results but we will be aiming to do even better this year," team manager Claudio Corti said. "We won't be considered an 'outsider' this year and will be at the start in Brest determined to do well throughout the Tour de France."
Columbian climber Soler was unlucky at the Giro d'Italia as he had to retire because of a micro-fracture in his wrist. The rider is currently in Colombia and is training intensely at altitude. "We're constantly in touch with him and we know that the injury to his wrist is still causing him some problems," Corti explained. "However, medical specialists told us that the complete healing of the bone only occurs after 40 days and so it is normal that he still feels some pain. The pain should ease over time."
Agritubel with outlaw rookie
French Pro Conti team Agritubel has already pre-selected six of its nine Tour de France riders. Sprinter and attacker Romain Feillu will return to the Tour, where he last year took three top ten stage finishes - an impressive performance for a rookie. Over the winter, Feillu was stricken with toxoplasmosis, and only recently returned to competition. "We think that he might not finish the Tour, but only for the first week, he has such a great talent that he is capable of anything," said director Denis Leproux. "Moreover, he will give us a lot of media attention."
With overall contender Christophe Moreau, the captain of the Tour squad, the 2006 U23 World's runner-up will have the necessary experience at his side. The complete Agritubel pre-selection is: Christophe Moreau, Romain Feillu, Jimmy Casper, Nicolas Jalabert, Geoffroy Lequatre and Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez.
Bouygues Telecom: 12 riders ready
ProTour team Bouygues Telecom has announced a 12-rider selection, of which nine will make the final cut to the Grand Tour in July. Leading the line-up is Thomas Voeckler, well-known since his 10-day ride in Yellow at the Tour 2004. Also listed in the provisional selection are: Jérôme Pineau, Anthony Geslin, Matthieu Sprick, Laurent Lefèvre, Vincent Jérôme, Jérôme Pichot, Pierrick Fédrigo, Yuri Trofimov, Xavier Florencio, Stef Clement as well as Johan Tschopp.