Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) is to ride the Tour de France despite not having raced since finishing second in the Giro d?Italia behind Alberto Contador (Astana).

The big-mouthed little Italian climber hinted he might ride the Tour in Tuesday?s Gazzetta dello Sport and the Saunier Duval team confirmed his selection at lunchtime on Tuesday.

Ricco will replace Jose Angel Marchante who has been suffering with an ulcer during the first part of the season.

Ricco will lead a young Saunier Duval team at the Tour but will have vital support from fellow Italian climber Leonardo Piepoli. Also in the team are: Juanjo Cobo, Davide de le Fuente, Josep Jufre, Alberto Fernandez de la Puebla, Jesus Del Nero, Angel Litu Gomez. The final place will be decided after this weekend?s national championships with Ruben Lobato, Aurelien Passeron and Rubens Bertogliati in contention.

Ricco has been secretly training for the last ten days, doing rides of up to seven hours according to reports in the Italian press.

He refused to ride the Tour of Switzerland and said he was going on holiday to Sardinia. Instead he quietly rested up after the efforts of the Giro and has now decided to ?do a Contador? (his own words) and make a late decision to ride the Tour after being on holiday.


CSC have named their starting nine for the Tour de France and have named Carlos Sastre as team leader but the it seems the easy going Spaniard will be under pressure from team mates Frank and Andy Schleck, who are also targeting a good place overall.

Team manager Bjarne Riis has patiently stood by Sastre but is quietly hoping the Schleck brothers can step up and challenge overall in this year?s very open Tour de France.

?With Sastre and the two Schleck brothers, we have three riders who can sit among the best in the mountains and it will be extremely exciting to see how far they can go,? Riis said.

Frank Schleck admitted to Cycle Sport that he feels he is ready to step up and be the CSC captain at the Tour de France. He played down any rivalry with Sastre but Andy was not so subtle in the official CSC Tour team announcement.

?Carlos is the captain, everyone knows that. But everyone also knows that Frank and I won’t be the first ones going back to the team car to fetch water bottles,? he said.

Sastre will have to watch out for the Schleck brothers ganging up against him. Significantly his loyal domestique Inigo Cuesta has not got a place in this year?s team, leaving him slightly isolated in the team.

Stuart O?Grady, Jens Voigt, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Volodymir Gustov and Niki Sorensen will have to the hard work for the team, while Fabian Cancellara will target stage wins and the yellow jersey in the first week of the race.

Team CSC will be officially know as Team CSC Saxo Bank at the Tour and unveil their new jersey before the start.

Tour de France line-up: Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Carlos Sastre (Spa), Andy Schleck (Lux), Frank Schleck (Lux), Nicki Sorensen (Den), Jens Voigt (Ger), Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) and Volodymir Gustov (Ukr).


If you thought in the final run-up to the Tour de France we?d forgotten other great events like the Tour of Flanders, you?re wrong.

Last week, it ermerged that the village of Wetteren has been designated ?Flanders Village 2009? by race organisers. This is quite an achievement given that Wetteren, which can be found east of Ghent, is not even on the Flanders route.

Wetteren was where the first three times winner of Flanders, Achiel Buyse was born. It hosted the finish of the Ronde 31 times during the period of 1928 to 1961.

As for those Classics fans who would prefer to ignore the Tour de France completely and start booking their flights for next year?s Classics, the Tour of Flanders 2009 will take place on Sunday, April 5.