We present our definitive guide to all 20 of this year's Tour de France teams.
Here you will find information on each of the 2009 Tour teams, from Ag2r to Saxo Bank. We have included details of key riders, Tour aims, equipment and much more.
Sponsor: Insurance brands
Bikes: BH frames with Campagnolo kit
Managers: Vincent Lavenu, Laurent Biondi
Key riders: Vladimir Efimkin (Rus), Cyril Dessel (Fra), Nicolas Roche (Irl)
How will they do? Stage wins and plenty of time in breakaways will be the team plans, bread-and-butter for a French team. Though Valjavec is absent, Vladimir Efimkin will be looking to improve on eleventh place overall, while Dessel, anonymous so far this year, should be active in breakaways as he looks to retrieve his yellow jersey-winning form of 2006.
Nicolas Roche rides his first Tour de France after finishing a promising thirteenth in last year's Vuelta. A climber with a handy sprint on him, he is a good prospect for stage victory.
As a whole, the team is full of handy, attacking riders who could be dangerous from breakaways.
Last year: After Martin Elmiger was outsprinted by Kurt-Asle Arvesen in Foix, Cyril Dessel saved their race with a canny breakaway victory into Jausiers, leading into the late, final corner and outsprinting his two companions. Tadej Valjavec and Vladimir Efimkin (technically a stage winner in Bagnères de Bigorre last year after Riccardo Riccò's retrospective disqualification) ghosted into tenth and eleventh places overall. With three in the top twenty-five overall, the team also finished second overall behind CSC.
Tour pedigree: Including former incarnations Chazal and Casino, Ag2r have been a fixture in the Tour de France for the last fifteen years. Their first stage win came from Rodolfo Massi in the 1998 Tour, and they've enjoyed several since, thanks chiefly to mountain-fearing fast man Jaan Kirsipuu.
Surprise package: Former Coupe de France winner Lloyd Mondory packs a decent sprint. Potentially very threatening from a small breakaway group.
Factoid: Evergreen Stéphane Goubert could be the oldest man in the 2009 Tour - the climber turned 39 in March. He is remarkably consistent, if unspectacular, too, finishing inside the top forty of the Tour for the last eight years.
Sponsor: They make agricultural machinery
Bikes: Kuota frames with SRAM components
Managers: Denis Leproux, Emmanuel Hubert, Frédéric Mainguenaud
Key riders: Romain Feillu (Fra), Christophe Moreau (Fra)
How will they do? These three weeks in July are the highlights of Agritubel's year. Expect to see them up the road often, showing off the sponsor's name. Romain Feillu is their best bet for a stage win, lethal from a small group thanks to his strong sprint. Christophe Moreau will be wanting to end his career with a flourish and could be a danger for the polka-dot jersey, if he is not too far over the metaphorical hill. Plucky trier Nicolas Vogondy is likely to be up the road again this year.
Last year: Romain Feillu made it into an early breakaway and finished third, enjoyed a day in the maillot jaune, before the Tour's first time-trial. Feillu was one of the race's most aggressive riders, also scoring two other third place finishes. Speaking of aggressive riders, some may remember Nicolas Vogondy being caught by Mark Cavendish 200 metres from the line in Châteauroux.
Tour pedigree: For a team that has never been in the top tier of pro cycling, they've fared well. In their debut Tour of 2006, Juan Miguel Mercado outsprinted Cyril Dessel into Pau for an opportunistic stage win.
Surprise package: David Le Lay. Since joining mid-summer 2008, he has had a fine year with Agritubel, winning the Circuit de la Sarthe and coming second in the Four Days of Dunkirk and attacking on the Mur de Huy in the Flèche Wallone. Definitely one to watch out for in breakaways.
Factoid: Agritubel can boast two Tour of Britain winners in their ranks - Romain Feillu (2007) and Geoffroy Lequatre (2008).
Sponsor: A consortium of Kazakh companies
Bikes: Trek frames, with SRAM components
Manager: Johan Bruyneel
Key riders: Alberto Contador (Spa), Lance Armstrong (Usa), Levi Leipheimer (Usa)
How will they do? Very well. The strength-in-depth of their lineup is remarkable. Simply, the Tour will be unsatsifactory if they fail to win overall. Alberto Contador is their best bet for victory, having shown no signs of slowing down after his 2007 overall victory. As much media hype as he may create, Armstrong will do well to finish in the top five overall.
Last year: After a chequered year of doping misdemeanours, Tour organisers ASO did not give them a wild-card, leading to some world-class tantrums, most notably the ‘Let Levi Ride' campaign.
Tour pedigree: Non-starters; the team was withdrawn halfway through the 2007 after news of Vinokorov's positive test, and were not given an invitation to last year's race. Third time lucky?
Surprise package: This team has so many proven performers that they have no need for a surprise package.
Factoid: In Armstrong, Contador, Kloden, Leipheimer and Zubeldia, the team has five riders who have finished in the Tour de France top five before.
Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Sponsor: Bouygues Telecom is a French telecoms company, BBOX is the name of its TV, broadband and phone set-top box.
Bikes: Time frameswith Campagnolo components
Manager: Jean-René Bernaudeau
Key riders: Thomas Voeckler (Fra), Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra)
How will they do? Lacking both a overall contender or sprinter of note, they will be throwing riders up the road in escapes to maximise their chances. A stage win would make the Tour a success for this French team of triers. Thomas Voeckler epitomises their style of racing: plucky and attacking, but often unsuccessful.
Last year: Predictably plucky and attacking. Thomas Voeckler wore the polka-dot jersey for the first five days. Jérôme Pineau was third on the opening stage into Plumelec, but otherwise they were very quiet, faring worst of the French teams in attendance.
Tour pedigree: Still dreaming of the halcyon days of 2004, when housewives' favourite Voeckler spent ten days in the maillot jaune. Only one stage win in the Tour de France, courtesy of Pierrick Fédrigo in 2006.
Surprise package: Twenty-two year old Pierre Rolland starts his first Tour de France, after some promising top-twenty rides at Paris-Nice in recent years. Though this will be a learning experience for him, he should be good for an attack or two.
Factoid: Thomas Voeckler spent his childhood and adolescent years on the Caribbean island of Martinique.
Sponsor: French bank
Bikes: Pinarello frames with Campagnolo components
Managers: Eusebio Unzue, Neil Stephens
Key riders: Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa), David Arroyo (Spa)
How will they do? Not as well as they would have done with Valverde. However,the resultant carte blanche could be good for a team packed with strong climbers and attacking flair, including Tour winner Pereiro and Gutierrez. A stage or top ten finish is very possible.
Last year: Valverde destroyed the opposition to take the first yellow jersey in Plumelec, and Luis Leon Sanchez soloed into Aurillac for a classy win. However, Valverde's ninth-place finish overall may have been slightly disappointing.
Tour pedigree: This team goes way back, to the time of Reynolds and Banesto, and therefore to Tour winners Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain.
Surprise package: If he gets a ride in his first Grand Tour, Colombian Rigoberto Uran could fare well. Third in last year's Tour of Lombardy and fifth overall in the Tour of Romandie, the twenty-two year old is a strong climber.
Factoid: Oscar Pereiro has not won a professional race since his 2006 Tour "victory".
Cervélo Test Team
Sponsor: Canadian bicycle manufacturer
Bikes: Cervélo frames with Campagnolo components
Manager: Jean-Paul Van Poppel
Key riders: Carlos Sastre (Spa), Thor Hushovd (Nor)
How will they do? Sastre will be keen to defend his Tour crown, but a podium finish may be his best bet, with young guns Contador and Schleck and their teams looking stronger. Consistent Hushovd is a good prospect for a stage win somewhere along the route. If Cavendish falters, he will be a favourite to take another green jersey.
Last year: Didn't exist - although Sastre won the Tour and the queen stage up Alpe d'Huez, while Hushovd also took stages.
Tour pedigree: See above.
Surprise package: Jose Angel Gomez Marchante. Beset by illness and injury in recent years, can he rediscover the climbing form that took him to fifth in the 2006 Vuelta?
Factoid: If he starts, 40 year-old Iñigo Cuesta will be the oldest man in the race. When he turned pro in 1994, for Euskadi, Mark Cavendish was only eight.
Sponsor: Offer credit over the phone and online
Bikes: Look frames with Campagnolo components
Managers: Eric Boyer, Francis Van Londersele
Key riders: David Moncoutié (Fra), Samuel Dumoulin (Fra), Amaël Moinard (Fra)
How will they do? There'll be a lot of pressure on Cofidis to take another stage. Two-time stage winner Moncoutié, now injury-free, will be dangerous on hilly transiton stages. Having lost Chavanel and Monfort over the winter, it could be slim pickings.
Last year: Samuel Dumoulin's third day stage win from a breakaway took off the pressure for the next three weeks. Sylvain Chavanel won late on to make it a bumper Tour for Cofidis.
Tour pedigree: No more relying on David Millar for stage wins.
Surprise package: He's no longer a surprise, but it will be interesting to see if Amaël Moinard can improve on his fifteenth-place finish from last year.
Factoid: Barring a last-minute midget entrant, Samuel Dumoulin will be the smallest rider at the 2009 Tour, at only 159 centimetres (5'2") tall.
Sponsor: Columbia manufactures outdoor clothing. HTC manufactures telecommunications equipment
Bikes: Scott frames with Shimano components
Managers: Bob Stapleton, Rolf Aldag, Brian Holm, Allan Peiper
Key riders: Mark Cavendish (GBr), Kim Kirchen (Lux), Michael Rogers (Aus)
How will they do?
Very well. Like Rabobank, another team that can produce wins in almost
any competition - however, their cohesion sets them apart. Cavendish,
the sprinter to beat at the moment, will win several stages and a green
jersey if he wins some intermediate sprints, Rogers could finish in the
top ten overall after a promising Giro.
Last year: Superb. Four stages for Cavendish, a stage for Burghardt, the yellow jersey and seventh place for Kirchen.
Harking back to Telekom and the days of Ullrich and Zabel, it's been
both excellent and highly-chequered by suspicion. Still, Columbia is a
very different team now.
Surprise package: No-one - after all, Mark Cavendish doesn't need someone upstaging him.
Sponsor: Euskaltel is a Basque telecoms company, Euskadi is the Basque regional government.
Bikes: Orbea frames with Shimano components
Managers: Miguel Madariga, Gorka Gerrikagoitia
Key riders: Egoi Martinez (Spa), Mikel Astarloza (Spa)
How will they do? They'll be on the attack in the Pyrenees, and Astarloza could provide a top-ten overall finish. A stage victory would be very welcome; the finish in Barcelona would have been perfect for Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez, but he's not riding this year.
Last year: Seventh overall for Samuel Sanchez, who lost the race in the Pyrenees. Egoi Martinez was beaten into second on Prato Nevoso.
Tour pedigree: Haven't won a stage since 2003, when Haimar Zubeldia and Iban Mayo finished fifth and sixth overall. The days of Euskaltel-Euskadi illuminating the race with attacks in the mountains are long gone.
Surprise package: Igor Anton has been anonymous since crashing out of the Vuelta in sixth place last year, but if he finds his mountain legs, he could be lively in the mountains.
Factoid: Basque heritage is usually a prerequisite for joining this squad.
Française des Jeux
Sponsor: The French national lottery
Bikes: Lapierre frames with Shimano components
Managers: Marc Madiot and Martial Gayant
Key riders: Sandy Casar (Fra). Anthony Geslin (Fra)
How will they do? Attack a lot with the hope of winning a stage. Sandy Casar will ride bravely to a top-twenty finish, Sébastien Chavanel might sneak a bunch sprint top-three finish.
Last year: Close but no cigar. Gilbert was second on the opening stage to Plumelec, while Casar missed out to the tactically-astute Dessel into Jausiers.
Tour pedigree: Aside from a successful patch for a couple of years thanks to Cooke and McGee, they have a rich heritage of valiant attacking, from the likes of Durand, Mengin and Guesdon.
Surprise package: Remy di Gregorio. Has shown promise in the mountains of the Dauphine, but needs to follow through in the Tour de France.
Sponsor: Garmin makes satnav equipment, Slipstream is the team management company.
Bikes: Felt frames with Shimano components
Manager: Jonathan Vaughters
Key riders: Christian Vande Velde (USA), David Millar (GBr), Bradley Wiggins (GBr)
How will they do? Wiggins and Millar are contenders for the race's opening time-trial, while the team, brimming with time-trial specialists, have also been preparing assiduously for the TTT. Christian Vande Velde is the lelader, though his preparation has been a race against time after crashing out of the Giro d'Italia.
Last year: No stage win last year, though Frischkorn, Pate and Millar all had top-three finishes.
Tour pedigree: The 2008 Tour was their debut.
Surprise package: Daniel Martin. Nobody knows what to expect from him in a Grand Tour, but second place in the Tour of Catalunya suggests he is one handy climber. An outside bet for the white jersey.
Factoid: Winning is in his blood: Daniel Martin is the nephew of 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche.
Sponsor: Katusha is the title of the Russian Global Cycling Proeject. The team's chief paymasters are energy companies Itera and Gazprom.
Bikes: Ridley frames with Campagnolo components
Managers: Serge Parsani, Andrei Tchmil
Key riders: Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Gert Steegmans (Bel), Filippo Pozzato (Ita)
How will they do? After strong riding in the Classics, glamour-model-cum-cyclist Filippo Pozzato will be eager for a third Tour stage win. Despite being relatively quiet thus far, muscular Flandrian Gert Steegmans will be up there in the sprints. Vladimir Karpets could scrape into the top ten if he shows the consistency that has been so perplexingly lacking in previous Tour rides.
Last year: Didn't exist last year.
Tour pedigree: See above - though the bare bones of their squad originates from Tinkoff, who won a Giro stage.
Surprise package: Alexandre Botcharov has the unenviable talent of always finishing highly without ever winning: in 11 years as a pro, he has two wins.
Factoid: No Russian has ever won the Tour de France; Denis Menchov's fourth place in 2008 is the country's best-ever overall finish.
Sponsor: Lampre makes sheet metal
Bikes: Wilier frames with Campagnolo components
Managers: Fabrizio Bontempi, Giuseppe Saronni
Key riders: Alessandro Ballan (Ita), Marzio Bruseghin (Ita)
How will they do? Probably not as well as they want to. Their big race of the year, the Giro d'Italia, was rather fallow, with Ballan out with a virus, Cunego bombing and Bruseghin scraping into the top ten. Suddenly, a team of previously-indifferent Italians need a stage win here to try and resurrect a bad year.
Last year: Atrocious. Damiano Cunego crashed and abandoned. Alessandro Ballan was outsprinted in Foix. The team finished bottom of the money list, with over half as much money as the next-placed outfit, Barloworld.
Tour pedigree: Generally follow the idea "if it ain't the Giro, it ain't worth racing". Daniele Bennati won a few before he jumped ship to Liquigas
Surprise package: Former Petacchi leadout man Mirco Lorenzetto had such good sprint form in the early season that his name was put forward as an outside bet for Milano-San Remo, only to succumb to illness. However, the fact his name is prefixed with "former Petacchi leadout man" itself explains that he isn't up there with the Cavendishs of the sprinting world.
Sponsor: Liquigas produces bottled gas
Bikes: Cannondale frames with Campagnolo components
Managers: Roberto Amadio, Mario Chiesa
Key riders: Daniele Bennati (Ita), Roman Kreuziger (Cze), Vincenzo Nibali (Ita)
How will they do? With Daniele Bennati and Roman Kreuziger, they have two bona fide challengers for the green and white jersey. Bennati has recovered from a niggling injury and could be Cavendish's main rival; super-talented Kreuziger, only 23, is tipped to finish in the top six overall this year. Team-mate Vincenzo Nibali could squeeze into the top ten too.
Last year: They really missed an injured Bennati. Chicchi, Pozzato and Kreuziger chipped in with top tens aplenty, but it wasn't quite the same.
Tour pedigree: In line with other Italian teams: generally not too bothered if they've had a good Giro. Their only stage win came from Filippo Pozzato in Autun in the 2007 Tour. Just don't mention Ivan Basso.
Surprise package: Tour of Romandie winner Kreuziger could surprise many with his performance.
Sponsor: Milram is a brand owned by German dairy Nordmilch
Bikes: Focus frames with SRAM components
Managers: Vittorio Algeri
Key riders: Linus Gerdemann (Ger), Gerald Ciolek (Ger), Fabian Wegmann (Ger)
How will they do?
Follow the pattern of their last two seasons: try hard and be visible
in their blue-cow-kit, but ultimately fall just short of the mark.
Their best bet is a breakaway victory by the likes of Gerdemann or
Last year: A couple of third places for veteran Zabel. But they led the gruppetto by example.
Tour pedigree: Considering the team has had Petacchi and Zabel on board, very poor. They are yet to find a Tour de France stage.
Surprise package: Niki Terpstra showed his potential with a well-taken Dauphiné stage win, outfoxing his breakaway rivals.
Sponsor: Quick Step makes flooring
Bikes: Specialized frames with Campagnolo components
Managers: Patrick Lefévère, Wilfried Peeters
Key riders: Tom Boonen (Bel), Sylvain Chavanel (Fra)
How will they do? Despite failing another test for cocaine, Tom Boonen may be allowed to race if a court rules in his favour and would be (pun intended) Quick Step's crack sprinter. A lot has changed since Boonen won the green jersey in 2007 - Mark Cavendish is now the force to be a reckoned with, and Boonen's sprinting hasn't looked as sharp as in the past. In Sylvain Chavanel and Carlos Barredo, the team has two of the peloton's most useful baroudeurs.
Last year: Gert Steegmans stepped in to save the team's blushes on the final day, powering to stage victory on the Champs Elysées.
Tour pedigree: Svorada, Zanini, Steels, Boonen, Freire... bunch sprinting is their thing. Recently, the team has also proven a dab hand on transition stages too, as breakaway stage winners Vasseur, Tosatto and Knaven can attest to.
Surprise package: The only thing surprising about Jérôme Pineau is that he hasn't won a Tour de France stage yet. After several near misses, perhaps moving to a foreign team will help to break his duck.
Sponsor: Dutch bank
Bikes: Giant frames with Shimano components
Managers: Erik Breukink, Erik Dekker, Adri van Houwelingen
Key riders: Denis Menchov (Rus), Oscar Freire (Spa), Robert Gesink (Ned)
How will they do? Very well. This team is brimming with quality, for every type of stage or competition. Menchov, Freire and Gesink will be gunning for the yellow, green and white jerseys respectively. But can Giro d'Italia winner Menchov peak twice? Can Freire beat Cavendish legitimately, without the Brit abandoning the race? Because of such wide-reaching goals, it will be interesting to see how the team copes. They even have Juan Antonio Flecha for breakaways.
Last year: Oscar Freire won a stage and the green jersey through impressive consistency. Menchov finished fourth overall.
Tour pedigree: Traditionally, long-serving Rabobank have always performed well at the Tour; they're on a ratio of a stage win per year. Just don't mention Rasmussen.
Surprise package: Robert Gesink is heralded as the lanky, emaciated Dutchman who can bring back the Dutch Tour glory days of the 1980s, when the likes of Winnen, Theunisse and Rooks terrorised the opposition in the mountains. It remains to be seen how the precocious youngster copes with the Tour de France, but a top-ten finish and white jersey win are possible.
Sponsor: Saxo Bank is an investment bank
Bikes: Specialized frames with SRAM components
Manager: Bjarne Riis
Key riders: Andy Schleck (Lux), Frank Schleck (Lux), Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Jens Voigt (Ger)
How will they do?
They will rally behind Andy Schleck and help him on to the podium; this
is arguably the strongest team all-round at the 2009 race. The question
is, does the fresh-faced talent have the stamina and experience to
reach the top step?
Last year: A first Tour win as directuer for Riis from Sastre, as well as two stage wins and the team classification.
Tour pedigree: From early days as CSC and Jalabert, this outfit has perennially performed with aplomb here.
Kurt-Asle Arvesen can't really be called a surprise package since he
won a stage of last year's Tour but after the quiet year he's had so
far, we reckon he's aiming to do something at the 2009 Tour too.
Sponsor: Silence is a brand of anti-snoring pills made by Omega Pharmaceuticals. Lotto is the Belgian national lottery
Bikes: Canyon frames with Campagnolo components
Managers: Marc Sergeant, Henrik Redant, Roberto Damiani
Key riders: Cadel Evans (Aus), Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
How will they do? Evans, Evans, Evans. Everything is set up to help the sometimes-prickly Australian win the Tour de France; the team bolstered the squad with the likes of Dekker. Lang and Wegelius over the winter. However, defensive-minded Evans may be left behind in the mountains by Schleck and Contador.
Last year: Evans held the yellow jersey until Alpe d'Huez. Expected to overturn a 1'34" deficit to Sastre in the Tour's long final time-trial, he fell unexpectedly short of the mark and finished second overall. Again. Meanwhile, an ageing Robbie McEwen failed to deliver his customary stage win.
Tour pedigree: This team goes back to the mid-80s. Used to rely on McEwen for stage wins, but it's ok now they have Evans for second places...
Surprise package: Thomas Dekker briefly looked like being the next big thing, but he's gone off the boil a bit this year. Still only 24, he needs a good Tour to underline his talents, but may be confined to Evans domestique duty.
Sponsor: Skil makes power tools, Shimano makes bicycle components
Bikes: Koga Miyata frames with Shimano components
Manager: Rudie Kemna
Key riders: Jonathan Hivert (Fra), Kenny van Hummel (Ned)
How will they do? Very little. With no Tour de France experience whatsoever in their team, they are on a hiding to nothing. Will bravely have a go in some attacks though. A stage win would be a big surprise - and a massive success - for the Professional team.
Last year: Did not get invited.
Tour pedigree: This will be their first Tour.
Surprise package: Kenny van Hummel had a purple patch in May where he won just about every bunch sprint going; consequently, he currently leads the UCI Europe Tour. He's no A-list sprinter, but could raise a few eyebrows with some top tens.
Tour de France 2009 - Cycling Weekly's full coverage
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