Tour Down Under heads for France, Gerolsteiner and Quick Step announce Tour line-ups, Mayo happy wit
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South Australia and the Tour Down Under are set for some heavyweight promotion during the Tour de France when a promotional vehicle bearing a bicycle-riding kangaroo character nicknamed ‘Oppy’ – named after internationally acclaimed Australian cyclist and politician Sir Hubert ‘Oppy’ Opperman – will be wearing a Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under racing jersey in the Tour caravan. More than 100,000 TDU and South Australian promotional gifts will be handed out from ‘Oppy’ during the Tour.
– Gerolsteiner and Rabobank have announced 11-rider squads from which which nine-rider teams will be selected for the Tour de France. Gerolsteiner’s team will be led by Levi Leiphiemer and Georg Totschnig, and also includes Robert Frster, Sebastian Lang, Michael Rich, Ronny Scholz, Fabian Wegmann, Ren Haselbacher, Peter Wrolich, and Beat and Markus Zberg. Rabobank’s leaders are Denis Menchov and Oscar Freire, with Michael Boogerd, Erik Dekker, Pedro Horrillo, Karsten Kroon, Gerben Lwik, Joost Posthuma, Michael Rasmussen, Marc Wauters and Pieter Weening completing the 11. Freire is still doubtful after his recent hip injury, while compatriot Horrillo is also uncertain after crashing and injuring his knee at the Dauphin Libr.
– Although Liberty Seguros were expected to release Isidro Nozal from his contract after the Spaniard exceeded the permitted haematocrit level prior to the Dauphin, this week’s Meta2Mil is reporting that Nozal will not only stay with the team, but will also feature in their Tour de France line-up. According to M2M editor Jorge Quintana, Nozal is such a key component of the Liberty team for the Tour that they are not going to drop him from the team, despite releasing Portuguese rider Nuno Ribeiro from his contract in May when he recorded an elevated haematocrit level prior to the Giro. According to Quintana, the team believe Nozal has followed medical advice to the letter and cannot understand why his red blood cell counted was so high.
Liberty have had a mixed run-up to the Tour, with younger riders Alberto Contador and Luis Leon Sanchez riding well, but team leaders Roberto Heras and Joseba Beloki running well off the pace at the Dauphin and Tour of Switzerland respectively.
The Liberty team have said in a statement that they are awaiting the results of tests undertaken by Nozal following his elevated haematocrit reading before deciding whether to readmit the Spaniard to the team. They have also announced releasing team doctor Alberto Garai from his position with immediate effect.
– Euskaltel’s Iban Mayo showed in this week’s first mountain stage of the Tour of Switzerland that his preparation for the Tour is right on track as he finished close behind winner Brad McGee. “Things are going well and I am set to reach the Tour in the form I was looking for,” he told AS yesterday in Switzerland. “I am putting in the work here to achieve my objective, which is to reach my optimal form in the Tour, and specifically from the second week in the Alps, and to maintain it to the end of the race.”
Mayo refused to make any predictions about the Tour, preferring to say: “I am doing as I did two years ago, looking to avoid any pressure and looking to improve day by day. There are stronger teams than ours and they will have to carry the weight of pressure.”
Mayo is enjoying his first appearance in the Tour of Switzerland, which he opted for instead of defending the Dauphin title. “I would have had more pressure on me there, especially from the media. But in Switzerland things are a bit more relaxed both on and off the bike.” Mayo also said he had been very impressed with Jan Ullrich’s form in Switzerland.