RIDERS ARRIVE IN BREST

The Tour de France does not start until Saturday (July 5) but the 180 riders have already arrived in Brest ready for two days of press conferences, pre-race blood tests and final training rides.

Most of the 20 teams flew in on Wednesday, via Paris, with Quick Step and Silence-Lotto sharing a charter flight from Belgium and other groups of riders coming in from Spain, Germany and Italy.

Only Slipstream drove to the Brittany town after sneakily checking out the stage four time trial around Cholet. The team will officially become Garmin-Chipotle on Thursday when they unveil their new argyle kit and present the sat-nav maker as main sponsor.

High Road changes name on Friday morning in another press conference, becoming Team Columbia when they unveil their new jersey. According to designs circulating on the internet, the jersey will be almost totally light blue with the Columbia name and logo splashed across the chest.

LAST TRAINING RIDES, LAST MINUTE TECH CHOICES

Most riders got in their last big training ride on Tuesday before closing their suitcases, saying goodbye to their partners and telling the kids to watch out for them on television.

Any riding in Brest will be to test new road and time trial bikes and selecting the best wheels for the flat but wind-affected roads of Brittany. Most riders are expected to go for high profile carbon rims, with Britain?s Mark Cavendish probably sporting some of the biggest rims in the peloton as he goes for his first ever Tour de France stage win.

The Slipstream mechanics have revealed that some of their riders will be using the new 2009 Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, while others are expected to test Campagnolo?s eleven-speed gruppo and prototypes of both manufacturers’ electronic gear set ups.

Cadel Evans reportedly got in six hours’ riding on Monday according to L?Equipe after doing some time trial training on Sunday while everybody else was busy riding the national championships.

Late entry Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) has been secretly training in the Apennines in the last couple of weeks. After the Italian national championships in Bergamo, Ricco did a short ride as he tapered and recovered from three week of hard racing at the Giro d’Italia.

BLOOD TESTS ON THURSDAY MORNING, PRESENTATION IN THE EVENING

All the 180 riders will undergo blood and urine tests on Thursday morning, with other tests likely before Saturday?s opening road stage. The tests are usually carried out by the UCI and were supposed to be part of the biological passport. However, following the bitter divorce between the Tour and the UCI, all testing will be carried out by the French anti-doping agency.

The official team presentation will take place on Thursday evening in Brest, with riders forced to pose in their team kit and smile, even if it is pouring with rain and cold.

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