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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest News for October 16, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Belda furious at Sevilla's departure

Kelme directeur sportif Vicente Belda is none too pleased with the sudden departure of team leader Oscar Sevilla to the Swiss Phonak team. Belda, caught by surprise by Sevilla's move, made no effort to hide his frustration in an interview with Spanish paper AS.

"The moral obligations in this sport matter less and less," he lamented. "The riders are more and more materialistic. There is a good atmosphere at Kelme, and I'd like to know what happened to have prompted this change."

Belda now needs to find a replacement team leader. Despite the talent displayed by 23 year old Alejandro Valverde, who finished third at the Vuelta a España and second at the recent World Championships road race in Hamilton, Belda does not plan on placing the responsibility of leadership on the shoulders of a rider so young.

"Sevilla has not thought about the damage he's caused us," Belda added. "We depend on an invitation to the Tour de France, and partly, we depend on him. We have to look for another leader now, and if we don't find one the damage to our sponsors could be incalculable."

Kelme boss Pepe Quiles echoed Belda's concerns. "When Heras left the team I said that Sevilla was too young to take on the role of team leader," Quiles commented.

Only the details remain

Meanwhile, Phonak is pleased to be on the verge of signing the 27 year old Sevilla. Although the deal is not yet official, the level of disappointment voiced by the Kelme camp would imply that Sevilla's decision has been made. Phonak spokesperson Mirjam Zindel explained to Cyclingnews Thursday that "I can only confirm that we have an oral OK, but they are still negotiating about the contract which is not signed yet."

"We reached an agreement in Hamilton at the World's for the fundamentals," Phonak team manager Urs Freuler also told Radsport-News. "Only the details remain."

Phonak has flexed its financial muscle, intent on securing a spot in the 2004 Tour de France, by signing Tyler Hamilton as team leader, as well as several high caliber reinforcements. The eventual addition of Sevilla to the roster is another effort to further the cause.

Astarloa hopes for quiet resolution

Reports have varied concerning the severity of Paolo Bettini's dissatisfaction with world champion Igor Astarloa's comments that Bettini offered him money to collaborate in the finale of the road race in Hamilton. Astarloa quickly recanted, insisting that it was a misunderstanding, however Bettini was not so quick to let the issue drop.

"I firmly deny ever offering him money, and I have decided to sue,'' Bettini said in a report by Darren Tulett of Bloomberg News. "Apologies are one thing, but what he said is way too bad to just forget it. He explained it all to me and said it was a misunderstanding. That's not enough."

The Italian Cycling Federation has also held open the possibility of taking legal action against Astarloa for defamation of character, however the Spaniard himself hopes to smooth things over with Bettini this weekend in Italy, maintaining that the issue has been blown out of proportion.

"With Igor we just spoke as Boogerd and Van Petegem did," Bettini explained, quoted in Thursday's l'Equipe. "First I asked him how he felt after his crash, and he said he said he was suffering. The second time I told him it was the moment to work together to drop the sprinters, but in any case I never talked about money."

Despite verbal threats of legal action against Astarloa, Bettini may be more inclined to let the issue pass, knowing there is little to gain by keeping the incident fresh in the public's mind.

"I hope this doesn't ruin my friendship with Paolo Bettini," Astarloa said in a RAI-TV interview after his return from Columbus Day celebrations in New York. "This should all be resolved over a good pizza."

Labarca/Orbitel merger possible

The Colombian Orbitel 05 team may be on the cusp of a merger with the Labarca 2-Café Baque team from Spain. Félix Cardenas, stage winner and king of the mountains in this year's Vuelta a España, left Orbitel to join Labarca 2 so he could ride the Spanish tour, and after his success noted that he hoped for future in Europe.

Tour to visit Limousin

The the formal announcement of the 2004 Tour de France route just one week away, more details have emerged concerning the parcours for next year. After a start in Liège, Belgium and a westward march across northern France to Amiens (Picardy) and then Quimper (Brittany), the Tour will also visit the Limousin region in central/western France. The cities of Limoges and Saint-Léonard-Noblat are expected to host stage starts, while Guéret will welcome one stage finish, according to a l'Equipe report.

Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the 2004 Tour presentation on Thursday, October 23.

London Tour bid in question

Despite a high profile bid to host the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in 2006, it appears London will not see the Tour quite so soon. The Tour has in recent years started outside of France every other year, most recently in Luxembourg in 2002 and with a planned start from Liège, Belgium in 2004. The rhythm will be disrupted after 2004, however.

"There is zero possibility of the Tour de France having a Grand Départ in London in 2006 - or before," Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc commented in a report by Cycling Weekly's Alasdair Fotheringham. "We have already decided on French starts for the Tour for both 2005 and 2006, so the absolute earliest for London would be in 2007."

Further complicating London's bid could be the distant possibility of a Tour start in North America to celebrate Québec, Canada's 400th anniversary celebrations in 2008. The Société du Tour de France has insisted on several occasions that no decision on Québec's candidature will be made prior to 2005.

Eight suspended in Italy

The Italian Cycling Federation has handed down three year suspensions to eight riders for doping infractions. According to a Datasport report, elite riders Francisco Fiorenza, Federico Fioravanti, Andrea Baccani, Matteo Gigli, and Volodymyr Starchyk all received the sanctions. Andris Reiss has given a two year suspension, and Daniele Troian and Vincenzo Lamberti each received two month suspensions. Details on the specifics infractions were not reported.

Transfer news

Transfer news from Slovenia includes the moves two men to the Italian Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave team. Jure Golcer makes the jump from Volksbank while Bostjan Mervar will transfer from Perutnina Ptuj.

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