Saiz: 'Liberty is world's best team'

Liberty Seguros boss Manolo Saiz reckons his new-look team can challenge on all fronts and has said

Liberty Seguros boss Manolo Saiz reckons his new-look team can challenge on all fronts and has said
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Never one to duck the chance to give the media the sensational headlines it thrives on, Liberty Seguros team manager has come up trumps again, telling the assembled hacks at his team's launch yesterday that "we have the best team in the world". The presentation took place in the town of Sese¤a, near the Spanish city of Toledo, in a bicycle museum run by Liberty's sub-sponsor Wrth. As well as the full Liberty roster, the event was also graced by the presence of Spanish cycling legends Federico Bahamontes and Julio Jimenez. This is Liberty's second season backing Saiz's team, and it should be very fruitful for both of them. Ten riders have been signed, the most notable being three former stalwarts of Saiz's ONCE team, Joseba Beloki, David Etxebarria and Jorg Jaksche. They will reinforce a front line that already includes three-time Vuelta winner Roberto Heras, 2003 Vuelta runner-up Isidro Nozal and some of the most promising young riders around. Saiz stated that the team's unquestioned leader at the Tour de France is set to be Heras, who celebrated his 31st birthday yesterday. "In cycling you can't live in the past. The leader of the team is Heras, who has won three Vueltas and has had the best results over the past two seasons," he responded when asked about how Beloki and Heras will be accommodated in the same team. "We are going to try to win the Tour," said Saiz, which is a perennial refrain for the Spanish team manager that has yet to be achieved. "Last year's roster had a lot of quality, this year we have reinforced that. This is the best team in the world and I'm expecting a lot from it." Heras repeated what many have already said about Lance Armstrong's decision to ride the Tour, saying "the ambition of any athlete is to beat the best. We all gain if the best rider decides to compete. It would not be good if Armstrong was still competing but was not present at the Tour." Beloki, back with Saiz after ill-starred spells with Brioches La Boulangere and Saunier Duval, described his move as "a return home, to the place where I learned the most and got the best results. It was hard not being in this team last season, but now I am back and I have come knowing that Roberto Heras is the leader." Beloki added: "Roberto being the leader takes the pressure off me. That Armstrong is riding the Tour is not a surprise, the opposite situation would have been. Armstrong's team has beaten us these past six years because more of them went to the Tour in form." Beloki said that his injury problems stemming from his serious crash at the 2003 Tour are now behind him and his form is coming. All he needs now, he explained, was plenty of racing. With Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro on his programme before the Tour, he is set to get plenty of it. Liberty make their first competitive appearance in Europe this season at the Tour of Valencia, which starts today. Their eight-man team is basically a young one and includes Tour Down Under stage and overall winner Luis Leon Sanchez and TDU stage winner Alberto Contador.
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