Ullrich to the Tour
Almost immediately following the UCI's announcement, the Société du Tour de France confirmed that Team Bianchi would receive the final invitation, that originally reserved for Team Coast, to the Tour. The Société had left the option open to replace Team Coast with another team if the suspension weren't lifted, or if this new trade team did not develop in sufficient time. However now that Team Bianchi has been granted official status by the UCI, the Tour would have no grounds to exclude the team, meaning Jan Ullrich should race the Tour, and Mario Cipollini has seen his last chance for an invitation disappear.
"This decision puts an end to the questions we had to ask," Daniel Baal told l'Equipe. "From the moment Bianchi becomes a Top Club team, the team has a place guaranteed according to the regulations."
Team leader Jan Ullrich will now have an uninterrupted build up to the Tour, where he will surely be a star attraction, even if he and director sportif Rudy Pevenage insist that this year's ambitions will remain modest. Ullrich last raced May 1 in Frankfurt, and his preparation before the Tour is scheduled to include a return racing May 31 at the Rund um die Hainleite in Erfurt, Germany, followed by the Tour of Germany (June 3-9) and the Tour of Switzerland (June 16-25).
"Finally we're there," Pevenage commented, relieved with the news of Bianchi's acceptance. "We're going to work overtime to make sure Jan can race for the first time in the Team Bianchi jersey on May 31."