Davitamon-Lotto no longer a sprinter's team

Six riders pre-selected for the Tour; three spots remain

With Davitamon-Lotto's Wim van Huffel finishing just outside the top 10 on the overall classification, as well as the team winning the Trofeo Fast Team classification at the Giro d'Italia - in addition to leading the UCI ProTour teams competition - owner Marc Coucke says his outfit can no longer be labelled a sprinters' team.

"The lead in the UCI ProTour teams classification is unexpected but not accidental," said Coucke at a team press conference on Monday. "10 Davitamon-Lotto racers, including six Belgians, already have points. This is better than any other team [Fassa Bortolo, Liberty Seguros, Phonak and Team CSC have seven - ed.], and this is a demonstration of our widespread strength."

Boasting 27 wins to their credit, with four in ProTour races and among eight different riders, Coucke said the team will refocus their goals a little to try and stay as long as possible within the top three ProTour teams. However, the cycling enthusiast also restated that the team's core objectives - to have a strong team for all races, to provide opportunities for young Belgian riders, and to have a worthy ProTour team - have not changed, proudly adding that it is being achieved with one of the smallest budgets of any ProTour team, using a clever system of financial incentive.

"Our bonus system works: Wim van Huffel and Mauricio Ardila can earn twice as much as what they hoped at the start of the season. This is not a problem; we had it included this within our budget," he said

Directeur sportif Herman Frison said they 'discovered' van Huffel at last year's Tour de l'Avenir and the Tour of Austria, where he was riding for local team Vlaanderen - T Interim. "I had a feeling that Wim might be the biggest surprise of the team [at the Giro]," said Frison, who noticed the 26 year-old's second time trial in the final week was markedly better than his first, demonstrating an ability to recover extremely well.

Team manager Marc Sergeant added that praise must also go to the directors and coaches as well as the riders, and mentioned that three riders - Johan van Summeren, Mario Aerts and Cadel Evans - will go to the French Alps next week to reconnoitre the mountain stages of this year's Tour de France.

Sergeant also named six riders who have already been pre-selected for the Tour: Robbie McEwen, Fred Rodriguez, Leon Van Bon, Cadel Evans, Axel Merckx and Christophe Brandt. Seven names remain for the last three selections: Johan van Summeren, Wim Vansevenant, Bert Roesems, Henk Vogels, Mario Aerts, Nico Mattan and Serge Baguet.

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