Postal announce their Tour nine

US Postal offered a couple of surprises when they named their nine riders for the Tour, with a forme

US Postal offered a couple of surprises when they named their nine riders for the Tour, with a forme
US Postal have announced their nine riders who will start the Tour de France, with the main surprise being the inclusion of Spanish youngster Benjamin Noval, who only joined the American outfit this year. Two of the riders who have ridden as domestiques for Lance Armstrong in the past, Benoit Joachim and Victor Hugo Pe¤a, are named as reserves this time around. In addition to Noval, Armstrong will be supported in his push for a record-breaking sixth Tour victory by Americans George Hincapie and Floyd Landis, Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov, Pavel Padrnos of the Czech Republic, Jose Azevedo of Portugal and Spaniards Manuel Beltran and Jos Luis Rubiera. "Basically, we have the same team as the other years," said Armstrong. "We have a very experienced team and more than anything else, we have a very committed team. They know what it takes to win the Tour and they want to do that again." On the course itself, Armstrong said, "The last week looks really tough, the toughest we have ever done. It will be much better to have a stronger second half than a strong first half." USPS team manager Johan Bruyneel is confident the eight domestiques will do what they can to help lead Armstrong, set to start his 10th career Tour, to a record-breaking sixth win. "We will have a very strong team in the mountains, stronger than last year," said Bruyneel. "Azevedo is riding very strong and even in the Dauphin, where he wasn't in top shape, he was always there with Lance and was able to attack sometimes. "As for Chechu (Rubiera), of course, we know what he is worth every year in the Tour. I trust he will be in good shape when the mountains arrive. Triki (Beltran) the same - we all saw what he was able to do last year. I hope he will be on the same level. Where we will improve is with Floyd. Don't forget he came back last year from his hip fracture just a few months before the Tour and didn't really play a role in the mountains. This year, he will. That will give us four support riders for Lance in the hills." Ekimov will start his 14th Tour de France - missing only one Tour since 1990 when his 1999 team failed to be selected - while Hincapie will take part in his ninth Tour, having finished the last seven. "I also looked to two guys you always know will be there - George and Eki. George even added support in the mountains last year. Eki will play his usual role in the team time trial and on the flat and rolling stages." Bruyneel selected Padrnos based on experience and Noval on fitness. "I chose Pavel for his experience," said Bruyneel. "It was not an easy choice between Pavel and Benoit. Those two are basically in the same condition but I went with the experience of Pavel. As for Noval, I selected fitness over experience. This will be his first Tour but he has raced in three Tours of Spain. He is very professional and very dedicated and will do his job. He may be nervous in the beginning but that's the risk you have to take. You have to be in shape and he was in good enough shape to be selected."
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