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Tour de France News for June 4, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Brioches La Boulangère to stop

The French Division I team Brioches La Boulangère announced Thursday that it would not continue sponsorship of the team past the end of 2004. Despite a successful start to the season, the increased investment necessary to enter the UCI's planned Pro Tour beginning in 2005 represents too great an increase for the company.

"According to the new regulations, we would have to increase our investment by 40% compared to the 2004 season (28 riders minimum vs. 20 current), and the administrative costs would increase in the same manner," the team said in a written statement.

"It's obviously with great regret that after an excellent 2003 season and a promising 2004, an analysis of the budget constraints for 2005 prompts us to make this decision."

The Brioches La Boulangère team, which evolved from the Vendée U formation of Jean-René Bernaudeau into the Bonjour pro team, made a lot of noise before this season when it announced the arrival of Tour de France contender Joseba Beloki. The ex-ONCE leader was lured to France to provide La Boulangère with a GC leader, though Beloki thus far has shown difficulty as he has returned to competition after last year's season-ending crash in the Tour.

Beloki signed a two year deal with La Boulangère, and beyond wishing director Jean-René Bernaudeau and the riders good luck, the team has not indicated what will come of the current contracts.

The team could become the first official casualty of the new Pro Tour, which aims to assemble the top 18 teams into a newly structured league, placing increased demands on each team, notably the mandatory participation in all grand tours and current World Cup races which will combine to form the Pro Tour calendar.

Bernaudeau, however, remains optimistic that he will find a replacement sponsor and keep the team structure intact, and declares himself interested in the Pro Tour. The team submitted its candidature to the UCI ahead of the June 1 deadline, along with four of the five other French Division I teams.

Allergies hamper Beloki

Beloki not breathing easy
Photo ©: CN
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As his race condition slowly but steadily returns, Joseba Beloki (Brioches La Boulangère) has found himself battling another foe: his allergies. For several seasons now the Basque rider has suffered with seasonal allergies, and it seems a particularly bad attack was due in part to his poor showing on stage one of the Euskal Bizikleta.

"I couldn't breathe and I panicked a bit," Beloki explained, referring to his stage 1 episode which saw him lose some seven minutes to stage winner Miguel Martin Perdiguero. "This allergy is starting to become a problem."

Beloki already returned home from a training camp in the Pyrénées in France several weeks ago after a similar episode. He remains concerned about the upcoming Tour de France, not just because of his less than perfect preparation this spring, but because his usual allergy medications figure among the list of banned substances in France. Beloki is currently seeking an exemption from the UCI.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)

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