Hello and welcome to our countdown to the 2013 Tour de France.
The race is a couple of days away but the professional peloton has already reached Corsica and the team press conferences have already begun. Stay tuned to our coverage throughout the day for news and reactions from the world's biggest race.
Astana are not organising a press conference today but may schedule one for tomorrow evening for Jakob Fuglsang and the Danish media. However CN spoke to Janez Brajkovic about his aspirations for the race....
One team who have already put their team press conference to bed is Belkin, the Dutch team sponsor who have taken over from Team Blanco.
Mollema is their team leader for this year's Tour after his ride in the Tour de Suisse earlier in the month. Former white jersey Robert Gesink has been given a free role but is expected to help Mollema as well.
Here's what Mollema had to say this morning:
"Nobody knows now what I can do but I just hope to finish as high up on GC as possible," he said with a nervous laugh and smile, clearly enjoying being in the spotlight but aware of the pressure on his shoulders.
"We've got a strong team, I had good preparation in the Sierra Nevada. We'll go for maximum. We'll see,"
More from Mollema:
And by the way you have just one day left to register your Tour de France team in our fantasy game.... There are some fantastic prizes to be won... Here's the link.
You can find all of our Tour de France coverage on this page. Bookmark it now.
Alberto Contador's press conference is now underway. We'll bring you some of the quotes from the Spaniard as soon as we can.
Reports in the Dutch press that Langeveld could be leaving ORICA for Sky at the end of the season. More on that later.
The majority of the press cons in the next two days are taking place on a boat on the coast and that's where the press centre is located for the opening few stages. The boat will travel from stage finish to stage finish for the opening three stages.
Garmin are one team that have organised their press conference at their team hotel for later this afternoon.
In fact CN's Stephen Farrand is currently on his way to the Garmin press conference as we speak.
The Belkin team press conference moments ago
Contador on the strength of his team:
You can read the full Contador press conference story, right here.
Here's the latest Tour de France start list.
The RadioShack press conference is about to start with the press gathering to hear what the likes of Andy Schleck have to say.
Away from the Tour and Bradley Wiggins has talked to Eurosport about his 2012 seen. You can read about it, right here.
Vacansoleil who are struggling to find a sponsor have released this video.
Andy Schleck has told the press he's not a favourite for this year's race but more of an outsider for the win.
While here's our story from the Belkin press conference. Garmin's press conference is now underway with Sky's later this afternoon.
A few stats about this year's Tour de France:
198 riders at the start (22 teams of 9 riders)
300 support personnel
17 members on the stewards’ committee
Route in 2013
3404 kilometres (21 stages)
36 stage towns
537 French municipalities crossed
37 French departments visited
100 permanent staff of A.S.O.
280 temporary staff
1450 beds reserved every day for the organisers and teams
10 emergency doctors, 1 anaesthetics nurse
6 ambulances, 2 medical cars, 1 motorcycle, 1 X-ray truck
47 police motorcyclists
13 police officers (permanent police mission for the Tour)
23,000 officers from the various police divisions mobilised
1,000 General Council agents
Alberto Contador checks over his bike ahead of today's Saxo Bank press conference.
Here are a gallery of images from the press conferences that have already taken place.
Cyclingnews European Editor Barry Ryan has picked out the five key stages from this year's race.
Mark Cavendish's press conference has just started.
Chris Froome (tells his team website):
Team Sky's official pre-race press conference starts in just over 30 minutes.
Away from CN Joe Lindsey has written this feature on the Kimmage defence fund...
100 Tours, and 100 images. Check out this huge gallery from the biggest race in the world.
A year on from the Metz massacre, Jonathan Vaughters believes that his team can create chaos at the Tour de France. Read the story here.
The team has certainly brought an aggressive team to the race and it's the first time that Tyler Farrar has been left out of their Tour team. It's also the first time Dave Zabriskie has been absent for the team.
While Belkin were happily showing off their new kit this morning, Jean-René Bernaudeau’s Europcar outfit are still waiting to learn if they have a backer beyond the end of this season and they are aware that a good Tour de France will be crucial to secure their future.
Thomas Voeckler’s performances at the Route du Sud and Dauphiné augured well but they have been countered by the fall-out of Pierre Rolland’s cortisol levels and the team’s apparent disregard for the regulations of the MPCC. Bernaudeau has been reported to be in negotiations with a number of potential backers as Europcar is still pondering whether or not to continue when its contract expires at the end of the year.
The Dauphiné Libéré newspaper reports that Europcar will not make a decision until September. “Up to today, no decision has been taken,” Europcar’s French chief Eric Dodin said. Expect to see a lot of green jerseys in breaks over the next three weeks…
In Rome, the already-retired Leonardo Bertagnolli has been handed a 17-month ban by the Italian Olympic Committee for violations of his biological passport, back-dated to June 25 of last year. Bertagnolli ought to have been given a suspension of just under three years but CONI opted to half the punishment “due to the athlete’s collaboration.” Bertagnolli already named a number of clients of Dr. Michele Ferrari when questioned by investigators in Padova and it will be interesting to see if CONI opens any further disciplinary action on the basis of his hearing.
We’ll have a full account of Andy Schleck’s pre-race conference shortly, and it seems the Luxembourger is hopeful rumours of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. “A lot of things have changed in my life but not my mentality, it’s still the same” he said. “At the Tour de Suisse I was still there with eight guys in the mountains. I hope my condition improves as the days go by and we’ll see later on what my limits are, at Mont Ventoux at the latest.”
White smoke from the Omega Pharma-QuickStep press conference, as Mark Cavendish has delivered his assessment of stage one. A full story is on the way but here’s a preview: “At the Tour de France, whether it’s for the yellow jersey or not, a sprint stage is something we’ve got to go for. We’ve got to be 100 per cent motivated. You can’t put any more pressure on yourself because the yellow jersey is at stake because a sprint stage of the Tour de France is a big thing in itself. It’ll be nice to have but we’ll do our best and see what happens.”
The full Cavendish story is here. The Manxman is concerned about the narrow roads in Corsica but is optimistic of his chances of contesting bunch finishes on stages one and two, although he acknowledged that stage three will be more suited to Peter Sagan.
Sky have just wrapped up their press conference, where Dave Brailsford faced questions from Paul Kimmage, while Chris Froome spoke about his hopes of winning the Tour. Full news stories from our reporters in Corsica will follow soon. Remember, too, that pictures from all of the pre-race press conferences are constantly being added
. The barbers of Corsica have been busy.
It's no secret that Sky's openness to the press could be greatly improved and Peter Kennaugh's tweet in the wake of the team's press conference hardly inspires confidence that there has been any change in attitudes with the new generation.
"Well Paul kimmage today confirmed the fact he is a Walter ! Disrespectful loser" chirped the Manxman.
The Tour may be the biggest race of the year but it is also a market place, with agents descending on the race to thrash out deals with team managers. One man already rumoured to be on the move is Sebastian Langeveld, who has been linked by the Dutch press with a switch from Orica-GreenEdge to Team Sky in 2014.
One man staying put, however, is Marcel Sieberg, who recently penned a new, two-year deal with Lotto Belisol. The German told Cyclingnews HD that he is hopeful Andre Greipel can pull on the first maillot jaune on Saturday although he said that the green jersey would not necessarily be a target.
The official team presentation is now underway on the seafront in Porto-Vecchio. Belkin have been presented to crowds and after they file off stage, some guys on mountain bikes are putting on a show to entertain the masses while a bemused Daniel Mangeas looks on - for once, lost for words.
Argos-Shimano are the next on to the stage, making their entrance by rolling unsteadily through a mock tower. Simon Geschke is sporting a very impressive moustache indeed, bettering John Degenkolb's effort. There's polite applause for the Argos-Shimano team, which also features Marcel Kittel and Koen de Kort.
The teams are arriving at the rear of the stage by motor boat. Lampre-Merida have just moored as Movistar make their way on stage. Nairo Quintana is making his first appearance in Europe since Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April. He has spent the past two months training at altitude at home in Colombia.
Damiano Cunego leads Lampre onto the stage but the home broadcaster understandbly seems more concerned with the arrival of FDJ on their motor boat, sporting their new blue jerseys and boasting Thibaut Pinot in their ranks.
Aggressive Europop greets FDJ onto the stage, which makes a change from their usual fare. On the team bus before Tour stages, manager Marc Madiot likes to inspire his men by playing La Marseilleise. It's perhaps fitting, then, that FDJ have become les bleus, even if the classic white kit will be missed from the peloton.
There's hearty applause for Thibaut Pinot and hushed silence as he gives his thoughts to Daniel Mangeas. It's earth shattering stuff. "It's good for Arthur Vichot that he has the national champion's jersey and it's good for the team too," says Pinot.
Garmin-Sharp are next up, with Andrew Talansky boasting the kind of crew cut that would have passed muster with Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.
There's a nice balance to the Garmin-Sharp squad this year, with Dan Martin and Talansky starting the race on a level pegging with the experienced Ryder Hesjedal. Their orders? To create chaos, according to manager Jonathan Vaughters.
The organisers are playing a disappointingly straight bat with this year's presentation. Two years ago, the amphitheatre at Le Puy du Fou played host to a veritable carnival of kitsch, but there is nary a chariot, wig nor a hammer in sight here, it's all very sober.
Stop press. French team in "motivated for Tour de France" shocker. Tour speaker Daniel Mangeas coaxes the major scoop out of Ag2r-La Mondiale. “We’ve come here with a lot of ambition,” Vincent Lavenu says. “Yeah, we’ve got a very motivated team here,” Jean-Christophe Péraud agrees. And then they pedal off the stage. You read it here first.
Andy Schleck and his RadioShack team are gingerly making their way along the gangway, and Andreas Kloden comes precariously close to riding off the edge and into the sea below.
Kloden is now safely lined up alongside his teammates on stage, where the loudest cheer is for Andy Schleck. "I'm feeling better and better," Schleck smiles.
Chris Froome told reporters earlier that he is in "super condition" as the Tour begins, while his teammate Richie Porte described him as "the rider of the next generation." The Pepsi to Wiggins' Coca-Cola? The full story is here.
Cadel Evans and his BMC squad are next up. Their pre-Tour press conference is due at 12.30 CET tomorrow aboard the good ship Mega Smeralda, the floating press centre for the Tour's opening weekend.
Some rather jaunty muzak heralds Europcar's arrival but sadly it doesn't look as though Thomas Voeckler is going to reciprocate by playing the jazz flute.
The scoops just keep on coming at this Tour presentation. Voeckler: "We don't have time to look at the countryside here because we're racing but it's spectacular and hopefully I can come back en famille some other time."
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is now on stage, wearing the British champion's jersey he won last weekend. Cavendish, of course, hopes to wear a maillot of a different hue on Saturday afternoon.
Peter Sagan is now on stage with his Cannondale team. He will give his pre-race thoughts in greater detail at his press conference tomorrow afternoon.
The last time Alberto Contador rode the Tour, he was jeered by fans at the presentation in Le Puy du Fou in response to his positive test for clenbuterol at the previous year's Tour. What a difference a six-month suspension makes - Contador is greeted with polite applause as he leads Saxo-Tinkoff onto the stage.
Saxo-Tinkoff directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit tells Mangeas that Contador "is very well prepared and very motivated for this Tour." For his part, Contador says: "I am very happy to have a solid team around me."
The final nine on stage is the Sky team of Chris Froome, second overall last year but wearer of the number one dossard for the 100th Tour de France in the absence of defending champion Bradley Wiggins.
"Last year he seduced you, his name is Christopher Froome," Daniel Mangeas says, presenting the pre-race favourite to the masses.
"It's going to be very hard here in Corsica, but it's a nice island to start the Tour de France," Froome says politely, bringing the curtain down on this Tour presentation.
That brings the curtain down, too, on our live blog for today's Tour de France news. But the stories, analysis, speculation, intrigue, ill-advised tweets, pictures and interviews will continue to come in from our reporters in Corsica in the next hours, and we'll be back with more tomorrow.
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