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Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition News for August 5, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

ONCE to end sponsorship: it's official

Once were ONCE
Photo: © Sirotti
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The warning signs were there, and Monday the directors of ONCE, a Spanish lottery which benefits the blind, announced that their sponsorship of the professional cycling team would stop at the end of 2003. It is unclear whether cosponsors Eroski and Würth will continue their involvement in cycling, although team manager Manolo Saiz has indicated that the two companies could continue in similar capacities, i.e., not as title sponsors. Although it remains speculation for the moment, Saiz named Spanish football team Real Madrid as a possible sponsor.

ONCE has supported professional cycling for 15 years, and created its own team in 1989, a longer period of involvement than most corporate sponsors. During this period, the team has notched more than 430 victories, including four overall victories at the Vuelta a España.

"It's the end of a cycle," said ONCE's director of communications, Fernando Mendia. "After fifteen years of sponsorship, the ONCE brand is known by 98% of the Spanish public. We now prefer to dedicate our resources to other sponsorship plans such as the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, which are closer to the core social goal of our organisation."

No riders from the current team have been offered contracts for 2004, meaning the entire roster is now on the market in search of employers for the coming season. Saiz hopes to find new sponsors to keep the team intact, but acknowledges that it will be an uphill fight to keep his riders without concrete plans.

"It's the law of the market, and I have to accept that," Saiz said, while at the same time thanking ONCE for its dedication over the past decade and a half.

Although riders will undoubtedly be focusing on their prospects for the next season, the end of ONCE's sponsorship will not affect the remainder of 2003, when the ONCE name will have one final go at the Vuelta in September.

Bruyneel saddened by ONCE's demise

The premature end of the ONCE team has been met with shock and sadness by many in the cycling world, who realise the impressive achievements of Manolo Saiz's team over the last 15 years. Former ONCE rider, now US Postal-Berry Floor team director Johan Bruyneel told Marca today that, "It's very sad, the ONCE team is legendary in international cycling, and whenever a legend disappears it's very sad. They have given a lot to sport and especially to cycling, above all to the Spanish."

Bruyneel thinks that Saiz will be able to find a new sponsor, and thus will be able to keep the team intact. "Manolo Saiz has contacts and he will try and look for a sponsor to save the situation. I don't believe that there are any new teams in Spain so the solution is to find a new sponsor."

Bettini wants repeat World Cup win

That World Cup winning feeling
Photo: © AFP
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Fresh off his perfectly calculated and impressive win in the HEW Cyclassics World Cup race in Hamburg on Sunday, Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) says that he's hungry for more, and is targeting both the overall World Cup and the World Championships as his late season goals. With two World Cup wins to his credit, Bettini currently sits on 200 points, just 3 points behind leader Peter van Petegem, who did not score well in Hamburg. This is despite missing three World Cups at the beginning of the season due to injury.

"I'd really like to repeat my win last year in the World Cup for 2003," wrote Bettini in his latest diary. "The World Cup jersey with the vertical rainbow stripes is an award for being good all season long, and this year, apart from some injury time from my crash in Belgium, I think I've always been a protagonist in the races I've ridden. I really wanted to win a stage at the Tour this year, but it seemed Lady Luck wasn't smiling on me. But that's the way it goes sometimes."

"Yesterday I came back with a big win and had a nice festa with Quick.Step-Davitamon boss Patrick Lefevre and my teammates. We treated ourselves to a nice dinner and ended up with some champagne toasts. It was the best champagne I've ever had! We had a nice evening after HEW, even if we wrapped it up early since Wednesday is GP Camaiore in Italy, practically a hometown race for me."

Bettini has also strengthened his position at the top of the UCI World Rankings, with 2188 points compared to Gilberto Simoni's 2077 and Erik Zabel's 2020. To read the rest of Bettini's diary, click here.

Ljungskog loses time

One of the pre-race favourites for Le Grande Boucle Feminine, Cyclingnews diarist Susanne Ljungskog, came down with a stomach bug during the night before the second stage. Antibiotics and a lot of fluid helped her survive the day, but she lost almost three minutes to stage winner Joane Somarriba.

Tomorrow the riders will travel to Nice by boat before starting the stage in the afternoon. Susanne reports that she is hoping to get over the bug by the time the race hits the Alps for three challenging stages.

No Vuelta for Freire

Rabobank sprinter Oscar Freire will not be participating in the Vuelta Espaņa this year, in something of a departure from his usual plans. Freire, who is aiming for a third rainbow jersey at the World's in Hamilton, will prepare by riding the San Sebastian and Zurich World Cups as well as the Ronde van Nederland.

Beltran renews with US Postal

One of the best performed riders in Lance Armstrong's US Postal-Berry Floor Tour de France team, Manuel Beltran, has renewed his contract for another season. Beltran recently declared himself very happy with the Tour, after he was picked up from Coast/Bianchi by USPS earlier this season. "I have achieved a dream and will continue for one more year," said Beltran.

Collarbone break for Caroline Slikker

Dutch rider Caroline Slikker (Team Ton van Bemmelen Sport) has broken her collarbone again, putting the rest of her season in doubt. Slikker came down in a crash in a criterium in Usquert last Sunday when the peloton was sprinting for fourth place on the last lap. Slikker was taken to hospital where they diagnosed the break in her collarbone. Last year a similar thing occurred, when she crashed while warming up at the Dutch Championships in Alkmaar and cut her season short.

M. Donnelly Junior Tour is go

The M. Donnelly Junior Tour gets under way tomorrow (Tuesday) in Waterford with a 1 mile time trial, kicking off six days of racing in the area. A strong field of riders from Ireland and overseas will line out in the under 18 race, each of them vying to join riders such as Tour de France stage winner Martin Earley and former world junior champion Mark Scanlon as winners of the hard fought Irish contest.

Running from Tuesday, August 5 until Sunday, August 10, the international stage race has attracted a field that includes three squads from France, three from the Netherlands, two from South Africa and a team from the USA. Also making the journey are several squads from the UK, including the English and Welsh national teams.

As was the case last year, the M. Donnelly Junior Tour is based mainly in Waterford. The stage 1 time trial covers a hilly one mile course in the city, and three of the five road-race stages both start and finish in the area. Carrick on Suir hosts what is likely to be the most decisive stage, a mountainous 54 mile race on Friday, while the following day the riders will tackle a 55 mile race in and around Clonmel. The Junior Tour will conclude on Sunday with a two lap, 50 mile race which finishes at the GPO in Waterford city.

With such a strong foreign contingent entered for the race, Irish hopes are pinned on a number of good domestic riders. Theo Hardwick is leading the Irish junior team and given his strong third place last year and excellent form this season, is the most likely to succeed of the home competitors. He is joined on the national selection by Frazer Duncan, Barry Woods and Mark Cassidy.

The stages

Stage 1 - August 5: Waterford ITT, 1 mile
Stage 2 - August 6: Waterford - Dungarvan - Waterford, 60 miles
Stage 3 - August 7: Waterford - Thomastown - Waterford, 64 miles
Stage 4 - August 8: Carrick on Suir Circuit (3 laps), 54 miles
Stage 5 - August 9: Clonmel - Lismore - Clonmel, 55 miles
Stage 6 - August 10: Waterford - Fiddown - Waterford (2 laps), 50.2 miles

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