Tour de France teams
Illustration by Tomer Hanuka

Hit Squads

Aside from T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich and CSC's Ivan Basso, few of the riders on the 22 teams lining up for the Tour de France have a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing. But there is still the glory of stage wins and the races within the race—for the green sprinter's jersey and the polka-dot climber's jersey, among others. Whether shadowing Discovery o

Tour de France teams

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T-Mobile» Germany

Tour de France 2005

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Tour de France teams

Tour de France teams Illustration by Tomer Hanuka

Key Riders: Jan Ullrich, Andreas Klöen, Alexandre Vinokourov Lowdown: Ullrich is Armstrong’s biggest threat in this or any Tour, although Klöen surprised everyone last year by claiming the second-place podium spot that Ullrich has all but owned. This year, T-Mobile has three contenders (Vinokourov was third in 2003 but missed ’04), which could help—or hurt, if egos clash. Watch For: Hot-pink jerseys complementing Discovery blue—all the way to Paris

Team CSC» Denmark

Key Riders: Ivan Basso, Bobby Julich, Jens Voigt Lowdown: CSC is the only squad to rival Discovery in discipline and organization. If the strategies of Basso (third last year), a resurgent Julich (third in ’98), and hard man Voigt catch Discovery off guard, it could be a whole new Tour. Watch For: Gang-ups on Armstrong, tactical surprises

Liberty Seguros–Wüth» Spain

Key Riders: Roberto Heras, Joseba Beloki, Alberto Contador Lowdown: Three-time podium finisher Beloki has struggled to recover since crashing out of the Tour in 2003, and climbing specialist Heras quit halfway through last year’s edition. Now they’re together and healthy, though probably a safer bet for the Spanish Vuelta in September. Watch For: Possible breakout by sleeper star Contador

IlLes Balears» Spain

Key Rider: Alejandro Valverde Lowdown: The real Spanish threat could come from 25-year-old Valverde, who nearly pulled off a surprise win in last year’s Vuelta. He can climb like a goat, but he also has a kicking sprint that will help him stay with Armstrong’s bursts. Watch For: Someone attacking Armstrong in the mountains, finally

Lampre-Caffita» Italy

Key Riders: Damiano Cunego, Gilberto Simoni Lowdown: Simoni was all set to win last year’s Giro d’Italia before Cunego, his 23-year-old teammate, spanked him in the mountains. Cunego finished 2004 atop the world rankings, but this is his first Tour, and he may not feel so perky after May’s Giro. Watch For: Classic Italian intra-team drama

Phonak» Switzerland

Key Rider: Floyd Landis Lowdown: With three positive doping tests in 2004—most notably Tyler Hamilton’s—Phonak went from contender to pariah. But former Lance proté;gé; Landis, now de facto leader, can climb and time-trial with the best. Watch For: Solid time trials, sneak attacks in the mountains

Fassa Bortolo» Italy

Key Riders: Alessandro Petacchi, Fabian Cancellara, Juan Antonio Flecha Lowdown: The team to watch in the flat stages. This spring, it seemed nobody could beat Petacchi, who’s the favorite in any sprint. He won four stages in the 2003 Tour, and Fassa is like his personal bullet train to the finish line. Watch For: Sprint-stage wins that almost look easy

Quick-Step» Belgium

Key Riders: Tom Boonen, Michael Rogers Lowdown: Rogers could scare Armstrong with a couple of good time-trial performances, but most of the team’s energy will be focused on delivering Boonen to the sprints, where he’s Petacchi’s biggest threat. Watch For: Boonen vs. Petacchi in the flats, Rogers vs. Armstrong in the time trials, stage wins from crafty ace Paolo Bettini