The 22 teams riding this year's Tour de France showed their final starting line-ups at the official team presentation on Thursday evening, with some of them revealing the new look jerseys they will wear during the race.
The presentation was held in the shadow of the Erasmus bridge that will also feature in the 8.9km prologue time trial course on Saturday. The last Dutch Tour de France winner Joop Zoetemelk, opened the parade of riders, wearing the yellow jersey he pulled on in Paris in 1980. One of the 198 riders who rode onto the stage will pull on this year's winner's yellow jersey in Paris on July 25.
Cavendish first on stage
The HTC-Columbia team was the first team to ride onto the stage, just as they hope to be in the sprints. They showed their new minor-sponsor Skype on the arms of their usual yellow, white and black jersey, with Mark Cavendish leading his teammates as they rode on stage.
"The Tour de France always comes round quickly. You finish one and you want the next to come as soon as possible," he said.
Christophe Le Mevel led the Francaise des Jeux team on stage, revealing the team's new jersey design which maintains the mostly-white kit but adds a blue stripe up the side. He was the best French rider in 2009, finishing tenth, 14:25 behind Alberto Contador.
Fabio Felline is just 20 and a neo-pro but is part of the very young Footon-Servetto team in this year's Tour de France and could be the surprise in this year's sprint.
Robbie McEwen is at the other end of the age spectrum and has just celebrated his 38th birthday. But he seemed just as motivated to win as Felline.
"I'm just going to keep going and going. If I can win stage one to Brussels there's no better inspiration for another year," McEwen said.
New kit for Cervelo Test Team
The Cervelo TestTeam showed off their new white, black and grey kit at the presentation. 2008 winner Carlos Sastre (below) said he fancies his chances despite only recently recovering from a back injury.
"I'm here and that's important," he said. "It's a hard parcours but for a climber like me, I think it's good. There are only two time trials: one here in Rotterdam and then one at the end, the rest is all climbing."
The Garmin-Transitions riders tried to look cool and pose in their white sunglasses. Christian Vande Velde claimed he liked being an outsider and predicted that Tyler Farrar would win the green jersey in Paris. There is no place for Danny Pate this year but the Garmin-Transitions line-up includes Vande Velde, Farrar, Robbie Hunter, Julian Dean, Ryder Hesjedal, Martijn Maaskant, David Millar, Dave Zabriskie and Johan van Summeren.
BMC had a weaker team in the Giro d'Italia but will back-up world champion Cadel Evans at the Tour de France, with Alessandro Ballan, George Hincapie Markus Burghardt Karsten Kroon and Brent Bookwalter.
Cadel was not afraid of the curse of the rainbow jersey. "I had my curse of bad jersey in 2009 and if 2010 continues as it's going now that'd be great," he said.
The Rabobank team naturally got the biggest cheer with Dutchman Robert Gesink shrugging off any doubts about his ability on the cobbles. Watch for Lars Boom in Saturday's opening prologue.
Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins unveiled his new long side burns. He also insisted the first week in northern Europe will not be a problem.
"The first week will difficult for some but not for us," Wiggins predicted. "We've got Juan (Antonio Flecha) and Eddy (Boasson Hagen), one of the most talented riders in the peloton. We'll be okay."
Armstrong versus the Schlecks, versus Contador
The last three teams in the presentation were the teams of the three big favourites: RadioShack, Saxo Bank and Astana.
As Lance Armstrong rode the stage, he asked if the weather was always so warm and sunny in Holland. However he admitted he will be nervous about the opening stages of his last ever Tour de France.
Frank and Andy Schleck refused to admit who is the strongest and who will be the team leader at Saxo Bank. 'We want to win it," Frank said, carefully using the plural. Andy responded with 'We'll see what happens in a few weeks."
2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador led his Astana team on stage and closed the official team presentation. He admitted stage three on the cobbles will not be an easy day for him but was confident and relaxed as ever.
"This day will be very difficult. It's not the best day or me but it’s the race. There are other stages (for me). It'll be important to be at the front and then we'll see."
More photos coming!
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