Tour De France Wildcards: No Cipo’!
The Tour de France will roll out of Paris on 5th July this year minus one of the sport’s most flamboyant stars. Mario Cipollini’s Domina-Vacanze squad has missed out on selection for the biggest show of them all.
And he’s not alone, as several of cycling’s other big names won’t be going to the party either.
In keeping with recent years, the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) has favoured home-based squads over foreign interlopers, and allocated 3 of the 4 wildcard slots to French teams. The beneficiaries this summer are Brioches La Boulangиre (thank you, Damien Nazon and Sylvain Chavanel!), Ag2r-Prevoyance (God bless you, Jaan Kirsipuu and Laurent Brochard!) and Jean Delatour (uhh, we’ll get back to you on this one!).
This being the centenary of the Tour, though, it’s more understandable this year that the organisers have chosen to be faithful to the French teams. Not that that will be any consolation to Cipo’ and his boys.
A hugely improved late spring campaign, on the back of Iban Mayo’s stage and overall wins at the Tour of the Basque Country, and a 2nd behind Tyler Hamilton at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, have snared the final space for Euskaltel-Euskadi.
Despite having equalled the 70-year old record for career stage wins at the Giro, Super Mario Cipollini obviously didn’t do enough to impress the organisers – it’ll be egg on the face time for them if he breaks that record between now and Milan. Either way, it’ll be a real shame to miss out on seeing the World Champion’s rainbow jersey at the head of affairs in France this July.
As expected, Marco Pantani’s Mercatone Uno squad came nowhere near selection. Likewise, Raimondas Rumsas of the Lampre team won’t have to worry about the contents of his car this time around.
But surprisingly, Jan Ullrich will not be on the starting line. The chaos surrounding Team Coast – are they still in existence or not? – has given the ASO the jitters, and despite making all the right noises about how he’s Lance’s one true challenger, the organisers have decided there’s no place for his squad. However, if the situation is resolved satisfactorily, now that Bianchi are taking over, the Tour may be able to bend over backwards to let him in at the last minute.
No such reprieve for Phonak, though. Despite having experienced podium campaigner and stage winner Alex Zuelle, and the appointment of Jim Ochowicz in a role to lobby for inclusion, the Swiss squad have missed out.
Full list of the 21 teams selected for the 2003 Tour de France:
France: Ag2r-Prevoyance, Brioches La Boulangиre, Cofidis, Crйdit Agricole, FDJeux.com, Jean Delatour
Italy: Alessio, Fassa Bortolo, Saeco, Sidermec
Spain: Euskaltel-Euskadi, ibanesto.com, Kelme, ONCE
Germany: Gerolsteiner, Telekom
Belgium: Lotto-Domo, Quick Step-Davitamon
Denmark: Team CSC
USA: US Postal – Berry Floor