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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for September 19, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

ONCE-Eroski still looking for sponsors

iBanesto replacement on the horizon

By Hernán Alvarez Macías

Even though team ONCE-Eroski, with Isidro Nozal and Igor González de Galdeano, is holding down the first two positions on GC in the Vuelta España, its riders still don't have a sponsor for the 2004 season. Both companies ONCE and Eroski will leave professional cycling after sponsoring one of the best squads of the Spanish peloton.

Team director Manolo Saiz told Spanish TV today, "Unfortunately we don't have any news. We are having discussions with some companies, but nothing is arranged or closed. I hope I have some good news in the future. Luckily, Nozal is doing a great Vuelta and we also have a very good team with some great riders. That's an excellent billboard."

On the other hand, the Kelme team will celebrate 25 years of professional sponsorship. Its team director Vicente Belda is obviously happy with this milestone. "It's so good to reach our 25th anniversary in a time so difficult for Spanish cycling. I'm very pleased to celebrate 25 years of efforts and some successes. It's not easy to build the history of a 25 year squad, but we made it. We decided to improve the contract of Alejandro Valverde and some others, showing his team is enjoying good financial times."

While no replacement sponsor has been named for the team, reports indicate that team manager José Miguel Echavarri is close to reaching a deal with a new backer for 2004. Echavarri has only lost two of his riders, Juan-Miguel Mercado and Juan-Antonio Flecha, and a press conference is expected during the Vuelta to announce plans for the coming season.

Saeco and Bianchi talking

Ullrich and Gimondi
Photo: © Olympia
Click for larger image

Speculation continues to swirl concerning Jan Ullrich's choice of team for 2004, and the latest pairing puts the German with the Italian Saeco squad. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luca Gialanella, meetings have been held within both the Saeco and Bianchi camps to discuss a possible collaboration which could see Ullrich move to Saeco, taking with him Bianchi as bicycle sponsor, as well as his entourage of directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage, faithful teammate Tobias Steinhauser, and his brother Stefan, a mechanic.

In the midst of the EICMA bike show in Milan, Italy, Saeco's president Sergio Zattella met with team manager Claudio Corti to discuss the possibility of bringing Ullrich on board. Saeco enjoys a high sales volume for its coffee machines in Germany, and clearly the addition of Ullrich to the team would be an important marketing coup. On the Bianchi side, Tony Grimaldi, Felice Gimondi, and other company executives met Tuesday with Ullrich and his manager Wolfgang Strohband to discuss options for the coming season.

Bianchi directeur sportif Pevenage confirmed the contact with Saeco, indicating that the talk in Milan could be well beyond the rumour stage.

"Indeed you shouldn't always look for extra sponsors if a merger is a possibility," Pevenage told Het Nieuwsblad. "There have been talks for a few months, within two weeks everything should be in order."

American bicycle manufacturer Cannondale is in the process of trying to renew its sponsorship of the Saeco team, however the companies recent financial difficulties may leave it with a bit less manoeuvring room than Italy's Bianchi.

Other unconfirmed rumours in Milan regarding sponsorship changes include the possible arrival of Giant bicycles at Team Telekom for 2004, replacing Pinarello, which may in turn team up with Bjarne Riis and Team CSC.

Disappointment for Fassa Bortolo

In the fierce crosswinds during the 12th stage of the Vuelta a España, the Fassa Bortolo team was perhaps the biggest loser. The day was salvaged by Alessandro Petacchi's third stage win of the tour, but the team's two leaders for the general classification, defending champion Aitor Gonzalez and Dario Frigo, were caught on the wrong end of an important split in the field and tumbled down the leader board.

"This makes things more difficult than they already were," Gonzalez said after the tough stage. Gonzalez had been improving steadily since the opening of the Vuelta, but Thursday's setback was clearly a disappointment. Frigo didn't enjoy his birthday, falling from fourth to seventh in the general classification.


@Home Cycling Team 2004

@Home for 2004
Photo: © Bert Geerts
Click for larger image

The women's @Home Cycling Team was presented at the head offices of @Home Thursday in Groningen, Netherlands. With the end of the Dutch national team after this season, a number of riders were left looking for new sponsors, and @Home was able to provide several with a ride for 2004.

New signings include Arenda Grimberg (from Farm Frites-Hartol) and Bertine Spijkerman, both of whom have already claimed victories in both national and international competition. Arenda Grimberg will represent the Netherlands at the world championships in Hamilton and is already nominated for the country's Olympic team for Athens.   Several young riders have been recruited, including juniors Marjon Spijkerman and Joan Boskamp, and U23 rider Areke Hassink. With the added riders the team will be the 14th team in the UCI rankings. The team still hopes to sign two more riders in the coming weeks.   @Home Cycling Team 2004:

Daniëlle Bekkering
Eyelien Bekkering
Joan Boskamp (new)
Daphny van den Brand
Saskia Elemans
Arenda Grimberg (new)
Areke Hassink (new)
Bertine Spijkerman (new)
Marjon Spijkerman (new)

Directeur sportif: Thijs Rondhuis

Lombardi to Fassa Bortolo

Mario Cipollini has lost another leadout man for 2004. Having never made amends with the world champion after a falling out last season, Giovanni Lombardi has decided to leave the Domina Vacanze roost and will join rival Italian team Fassa Bortolo for the coming season. Lombardi, a fast finisher and occasional winner in his own right, took offense to comments made by Cipollini in the past that he did not devote himself entirely to Cipo's success. In 2004 Lombardi will put his leadout services to work for the peloton's current top sprinter Alessandro Petacchi.

Casagrande extends

Francesco Casagrande, 33, has signed for an additional year with the Italian Lampre team. Casagrande's last victory came at the Coppa Agostoni in August and he is currently ranked 9th in the UCI standings.

Lynn Gaggioli to T-Mobile

Despite suffering a broken collarbone in August, Lynn Gaggioli has been rewarded for a successful 2003 season with a contract offer from the T-Mobile women's team. Currently riding for Velo Bella, Gaggioli was leading the NRC points standings before her crash in training, and this year has ridden to numerous victories, including overall titles at Superweek and the Joe Martin Memorial Stage Race.

Simoni still wants the Tour

Despite a disappointing Tour de France showing this year, after much promise of a challenge to defending champion Lance Armstrong, Gilberto Simoni is still eager to add the biggest bike race to his palmarès. The winner of the Giro d'Italia in 2001 and 2003 said this week that the Tour and the world championships remain high on his list of objectives, and 2004 will be an important year for both, particularly with the world's scheduled for Verona, Italy.

"With the Tour my account is still open, despite the disappointment of last July," Simoni told Datasport. "At 33 years old I want to take advantage of all of my capabilities to challenge Armstrong, and in the process get ready for the Olympics in Athens. It's a race in which I could do well, and Olympics always represent the greatest achievement for an athlete."

Simoni's decision on whether or not he will defend his Giro title in 2004 will be made following the route announcement in November.

Tafi back in action

Victim of a virus contracted at the Tour of Denmark, Team CSC's Andrea Tafi looks ready to rejoin competition for the remaining fall classics. Tafi is back in training and is expected to compete in the Giro della Provincia di Lucca (September 30-October 3). The fall season has often smiled on Tafi, a past winner of the Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia World Cup events in October.

Moreau out of GP des Nations

Crédit Agricole leader Christophe Moreau has decided to forfeit his place in the Grand Prix des Nations time trial this weekend in France due to illness. Moreau has been in and out of competition recently, sick before the Tour of Poland but back in action at the Grand Prix de Fourmies and the GP Wallonie. Moreau is waiting for results of a recent medical exam before making a decision about the remainder of his season, according to a l'Equipe report. His place at the GP des Nations will be taken by Ag2R-Prévoyance's Mikel Astarloza.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)