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By Andrew Hood
The final team selection for the 2002 Tour de France brought a wide rangeof reactions from the top players in Europe. Here’s a sampling of someof the reactions in the wake of Thursday’s announcement: Johan Bruyneel, director sportif U.S. Postal Service:“I think it’s what was expected,” Bruyneel told VeloNews fromSpain. “Everybody knew that it was going to be Saeco with Simoni and withseven French teams still to be selected, at least four of them going becausethere’s an unwritten rule that says that Tour de France has to have asmany French riders as possible. There are no surprises for me. I thinkit’s a logical selection.””Coast and Acqua & Sapone deserved to get the selection. Coast hada good beginning of the year and they have some good riders. The Frenchteams have an advantage,” he continued. “A rider like Cipollini deservesa place in the Tour de France. He’s a super star and he almost guaranteesa stage win. The big names belong in the Tour de France. Not having Cipollinithere is not good, but the team didn’t show their intentions on going tothe Tour. They seem more focused on the Giro and the Vuelta.””There’s nothing you can do about that, but having a good season andbeing in the picture helps if you’re not a French team. They also didn’tpick Mercatone, which is logical because they didn’t do anything so far.There’s not much you can say about Pantani. He really hasn’t shown anygood form yet this year,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do, so we justhave to prepare
the Tour in our way like we always prepare it. It’s always better thereare good riders at the start, especially some sprinters at the beginningof the race. It would have been good to have Cipo there, becausethere’s a common interest and it doesn’t mean we’re alone. Now we AG2Rwith Kirsipuu, so it’s good they are selected.”Angel Casero of Team Coast:“I had the illusion to go to the Tour because after the injury I hadto give up the Giro,” he told MARCA. “I had the desire
to participate in the Tour, but they have given more considerationto the French teams and to patriotism than to the spectacle of the race.It is a disappointment.”Beppe Martinelli, directeur sportif Mercatone Uno, left out ofthe Tour for second year in a row:“I thought that Pantani should be in the Tour de France,” he told LaGazzetta dello Sport. “They made a mistake. Marco will
show them in the Giro what they are missing. This means, however, thatthe organizers are stronger than ever before.”Felice Gimondi:“They called to me around to the 10:30 to tell me about the exclusionof Pantani,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I do not know withhow many persons made the decision or whether it has been decided in amajority. They might have had pressures from the political level. I hadhoped for something a little more. Instead nothing. They have applied therules.”Michel Gros, directeur sportif of Jean Delatour, left out of theTour:“The selection is not illogical,” he told L’Equipe. “The rules of thegame were known, but it is imperative for the sponsor and the racers tomake a good beginning of season. We failed on this chapter contrary tothe two last years when, because of excellent results, we earned a bid.The racers don’t know what happened, but we all have to share the responsibility.Now, it is a question of keeping the team in the first division. It isanother challenge and, then, the sponsor will decide what action they willtake.”Stephan Javalet, directeur sportif of Big Mat, also left out ofthe Tour:“I do not agree at all with the choice of the organizers. We had theobjectives in Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix, and in each race, we were present. But, that too is quickly forgotten. There are strong chances that thiswill be the end of BigMat.”Juan Fernandez, directeur sportif of Team Coast:“The Tour reserves the right to invite and to accept whoever it wants.What we need to do is get into the position where our bid is automaticand we don’t have to wait for this,” he told MARCA. “They’ve beenforced to act with both sport and political considerations. What the Tourshould do is invite 25 teams of eight racers and one extra racer standingby in the first week in case of injury. These exclusions endanger the futureof many teams. Many teams will leave the sport because they cannot go tothe best showcase of cycling, the Tour de France.”