Team bosses back Lance to win

Only one team manager hasn't back Lance to win this year's Tour and no prizes for guessing who that

Only one team manager hasn't back Lance to win this year's Tour and no prizes for guessing who that
TIM DE WAELE The 21 team directeur sportifs present at the Tour de France have returned the same, unanimous verdict on the destiny of the yellow jersey as the voters in procycling.com's most recent poll: Lance Armstrong will win the 2004 Tour de France. French newspaper L'Equipe on Monday published the results of a survey of team bosses carried out in Carcassone on Sunday morning. Of the 21 asked to predict their top three finishers at the Tour, only one didn't nominate Armstrong. The conscientious objector was Team CSC's Bjarne Riis, who perhaps didn't want to tempt fate given that only his rider, Ivan Basso, is likely to deny Armstrong. Officially, Riis said "making predictions about the podium doesn't amuse me." Fair enough. In contrast, Johan Bruyneel had no qualms about listing Armstrong, Basso and Klden, in that order. "There's no question about the first two. They proved in the Pyrenees that they are the strongest. Basso is very strong this year, but beating Lance is another thing." If Armstrong was everyone's man for the top prize, only one directeur didn't plump for Basso as runner-up. That was Rabobank's Frans Maassen, who went instead for Andreas Klden, judging that the T-Mobile rider "is better than Basso in time trials." Most, including T-Mobile's Walter Godefroot, have Klden down to finish third. Vincent Lavenu (Ag2r), Julian Goropse (Euskaltel), Hans Holczer (Gerolsteiner), Eusebio Unzue (Iles Baleares) and Jean-Ren Bernaudeau (Brioches La Boulangre) buck the trend by picking Francisco Mancebo. Patrick Lefevere (Quick Step-Davitamon) and Claude Criquielion think that Jan Ullrich can recover from eighth place and seven minutes down on GC to sneak into the top three. A word, finally, has to go to big old softy Vincenzo Santoni of Domina Vacanze. Spied topping up his bronzage on a poolside sun-lounger at the Park Inn in Orange on Monday afternoon, Santoni made a "sentimental rather than realistic choice" in tipping Thomas Voeckler to finish third. "My heart leans towards Voeckler," said Santoni. Sweet, no?
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