Equipe Cycliste FDJ – BIG MAT is the latest team to declare its line up for the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under.
The French-based squad will field three-time Tour De France stage winner, Sandy Casar, and Jeremy Roy, who in July was crowned the Tour’s most aggressive rider.
RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, Liquigas-Cannondale, and Astana have also recently announced their rosters for the first UCI WorldTour race of 2012, which starts with the Down Under Classic in Adelaide on Sunday January 15.
Race Director, Mike Turtur, praised the quality of the squad sent by Equipe Cycliste FDJ – BIG MAT, describing it as, “Tour De France standard”.
“We are thrilled with the team Equipe Cycliste FDJ – BIG MAT are sending to next year’s race. This is a highly experienced and competitive team from who we will expect a great performance,” he said.
Roy was one of the stars of this year’s Tour De France, constantly attacking, and coming within a kilometre of a win on stage 13 to Lourdes when he was caught within sight of the finish line by Thor Hushovd and David Moncoutie after dropping his illustrious Norweigan breakaway partner on the Col D’Aubisque. Roy had launched an audacious attack the previous day, this time with Sky’s Geraint Thomas on the slopes of Luz Ardiden. The pair were caught eight kilometres from the finish but the performance propelled Roy into the polka dot jersey of King of the Mountains leader.
“Jeremy Roy will be one to watch on the ŠKODA King of the Mountain climbs,” said Turtur.
Casar first rode the Tour Down Under in his neo-pro season in 2000, winning the best young rider jersey and finishing fifth overall. The Frenchman, famed for his attacking style, has gone on to win stages in the 2007, 2009, and 2010 Tours de France.
Forty-year-old French veteran, Frederic Guesdon, the 1997 Paris-Roubaix winner, will begin his 15th season with FDJ at the Tour Down Under. The team will also field two-time Belarus national rode champion and 2010 Vuelta a Espana stage winner, Yauheni Hutarovich, and five-time Finish national road champion, Jussi Veikkanen.
RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, formed from the merger of the Radioshack and LeopardTrek squads, will make their debut in Australia with a strong squad led by Italian sprinter, Daniele Bennati, a rider with 11 Grand Tour stage on his palmares. German rider, Jens Voight, among the peloton’s most experienced and well-liked riders, is joined by countryman and fellow Grand Tour stage winner, Linus Gerdemann. New Zealand’s Hayden Roulston, the national road race champion who has joined the squad from the collapsed HTC-Highroad outfit, and Jesse Sergent, complete the line up.
Turtur said: “RadioShack-Nissan-Trek has selected an impressive lineup to include a mix of Grand Tour experience and youthful competitiveness in their Santos Tour Down Under squad.
“With seven stage wins during this year, I am sure Bennati will start the year strong and aim for results at our race as the first WorldTour race of the season.”
Both Liquigas-Cannondale and Astana are sending youthful teams rather than their more established riders.
Astana new boys, Tour de Suisse stage winner, Borut Bozic, Jacopo Guarnieri, and Dmitriy Muravyev, will debut in blue and yellow, accompanied by 2008 national road race champion, Assan Bazayev, and his fellow Kazakhs, Valentin Iglinskiy and Dmitriy Gruzdev. Italian Francesco Masciarelli completes the line up.
Liquigas-Cannnondale will field six Italian riders and the Slovak, Kristijan Koren, whose 2010 Tour De France debut saw him feature in a breakaway on the Queen stage from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet.