Team Barloworld had a rough Tour. The worst part was of course the doping case involving Moisés Dueñas. A lot of the other riders had to abandon. But team manager Claudio Corti is looking ahead and was really impressed with the youngsters, John-Lee Augustyn and Chris Froome.
Corti also sees a chance for his sprinter, Robert Hunter, to take a stage. "Despite all the problems, our young riders have shown they are talented and we think Hunter has a great chance of winning in Paris on Sunday."
Barloworld is down to four riders (Hunter, Augustyn, Froome and Cheula), but Corti remained upbeat. "Without a doubt it's been a difficult and unlucky Tour de France for us but we're very proud that John-Lee Augustyn and Chris Froome have emerged and shown their talent for stage racing despite both riding the Tour de France for the very first time."
Augustyn is only 22 but impressed in the Pyrenees and was amazing on stage 16 in the Alps to Jausiers when he was first to the summit of the Col de la Bonnette climb, the high point of the Tour de France. He dived down the descent towards probable stage victory but a crash on a corner suddenly wrecked his chances.
23 year-old Chris Froome has also been in the spotlight and not only for his Kenyan roots. He caught the attention of the media thanks to his ability to stay with the best riders on the toughest climbs. Froome clearly showed both his character and potential for major stage races.
"They've both got a great future ahead of them, cycling needs young riders like Chris and John-Lee," Claudio Corti said.
Italy's Gianpaolo Cheula has also done well during the Tour de France, often sparking attacks and getting in early breaks. "Gianpaolo is on form and he showed this in the Alps," Corti said. "He's a fighter and his presence in the team is very important."
Team Barloworld's Tour de France has been badly affected by numerous crashes and as a consequence four riders have been forced to retire during the race. First to go was Mauricio Soler. Last year he had an unforgettable Tour de France when he won a stage in the Alps and won the best climber's polka-dot jersey. He was unlucky this year and a crash during the first stage eventually forced him to retire.
Both Paolo Longo Borghini and Felix Cárdenas crashed out on stage 11. Longo Borghini fractured his right collarbone, while Cárdenas suffered a three-centimetre muscle tear in his right thigh. The next day Australia's Baden Cooke also crashed in the early part of the stage and suffered a back injury.
Unfortunately it was not only the crashes that made Team Barloworld's Tour de France so difficult. Corti was frank about it. "Moises Dueñas' case also created problems. However the team's stance and behaviour has always been crystal clear: whoever behaves incorrectly will always be caught and distanced from the team. We've always had a zero-tolerance policy towards doping and we've always worked professionally and honestly. It is for that very reason that we decided to carry on in the Tour de France and face the final stages of the race with renewed optimism," Corti concluded.
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