The top-flight team Fuji-Servetto were left out of this year's Tour de France when organisers unveiled their selection yesterday, after last year's doping fiasco. Twenty teams will take part in the world's greatest stage race from 4 to 27 July. All the ProTour teams except Fuji-Servetto have been picked by the Tour organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), as well as the lower-ranked Skil-Shimano, Agritubel and Cervelo, the team of the 2008 winner Carlos Sastre.
Fuji-Servetto were barred from entering last week's ASO-owned Paris-Nice race and their appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was rejected this month because it was ruled the team had damaged the Tour's image.
Saunier Duval, the team's sponsor last season, left the 2008 Tour de France after the Italian rider Riccardo Ricco failed a drugs test.
It was then revealed that another Italian on the team, Leonardo Piepoli, had tested positive for the latest generation of the blood-boosting drug EPO, CERA (Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator).
"It's a natural selection. We have all the team who took part in Paris-Nice," said the Tour director, Christian Prudhomme. "We do not change our policy. There will be no former Saunier Duval team at the start because they faulted in 2007 and 2008." The Spaniard Iban Mayo tested positive for EPO during the 2007 Tour while riding for Saunier Duval.
As expected, Astana will return after being omitted last year because of their past doping record. "Last year, they were not in because they had faulted in the two previous editions," Prudhomme said. "But they were in Paris-Nice last week with a beautiful loser."
Spain's Alberto Contador, a Tour winner in 2007, collapsed in the penultimate stage and failed to reclaim the overall lead on Sunday despite a bold solo raid.
He will start the Tour in Monaco on 4 July along with the seven-times champion Lance Armstrong, who is back in competition after three and a half years in retirement.
* Britain's Mark Cavendish of the Columbia team won the seventh and final stage of the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico race in Italy, which ended in San Benedetto del Tronto yesterday, beating the American Tyler Farrar and Australia's Baden Cooke in a sprint finish. Italy's Michele Scarponi of the Diquigiovanni team won the race overall, with his compatriot Stefano Garzelli second, 25 seconds behind, and the 2007 winner Andreas Klöden of Germany placed third.
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