Tour De France: YELLOW PERIL: ROBIN NICHOLL LOOKS AT FIVE CONTENDERS FOR THE WINNER'S JERSEY

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The Independent Online
LANCE ARMSTRONG

US POSTAL

Fourth places last year in the Vuelta a Espana and the world road- race championship marked an emotional return to racing after battle with cancer. All-rounder whose talent might get stretched in the Alps, the Texan was a world champion six years ago but his best could be still to come.

Best performances: 1993 Tour de France stage, Verdun. World road race championship, Oslo. 1995 Tour de France stage, Limoges. San Sebastian Classic. 1996 Fleche Wallonne. 1998 Tour of Luxembourg.

MICHAEL BOOGERD

RABOBANK

He and schoolfriend Richard Krajicek hit a peak in 1996. Boogerd won a stage at Aix-les-Bains on debut and Krajicek won Wimbledon. Fifth last year showed that the lad from The Hague was gaining in experience, and this year his strength in the mountains will be crucial. Has won Paris-Nice and the Amstel Gold, and the Dutch hope can be their first winner since Joop Zoetemelk 19 years ago.

Best performances: 1996 Tour de France stage, Aix-les-Bains. 1998 Catalan Week. 1999 Amstel Gold classic. Paris-Nice.

CHRISTOPHE RINERO

COFIDIS

With Laurent Jalabert and Richard Virenque missing, France will be looking to Rinero to lift sagging morale. He was 11 when Bernard Hinault won his fifth Tour, since when France has waited for a successor. Last year Rinero offered hope by winning the "best climber" jersey and finishing fourth overall. Was it a one-off? With Bobby Julich as the team's natural leader, Rinero, and the rest of France, may have to wait and hope.

Best performances: 1998 4th, Tour de France; best climber. Tour de l'Avenir.

PAVEL TONKOV

MAPEI

Missed Giro d'Italia after victory and two seconds in three years. The Russian could not beat Marco Pantani in the 1998 Giro but he made the Italian fight for every second. A reasonable time-trial rider, and a scrapper in the mountains. In 1992 and 1993 he won the "best young rider" category in the Giro, but has yet to be thoroughly Tour-tested.

Best performances: 1995 Tour of Switzerland. 1996 Giro d'Italia. 1997 Tour of Romandy; three Giro stage wins, two in Vuelta. 1998 Giro stage win.

ALEX ZUELLE

BANESTO

After seven months out, following his confession of doping, Zuelle is acceptable again. Has worn the leader's colours in the Big Three tours, and has won the Vuelta a Espana twice (1996,1997). Proven time-triallist who knows how to stay competitive through the mountains.

Best performances: 1993 Paris-Nice. Three time-trial wins, Vuelta a Espana. 1996 Stage win Vuelta. World time trial championship. 1997: Stage win, Vuelta. 1998: Three stage wins, Giro d'Italia. Stage win, Vuelta.

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