News for September 24, 2000

Escartin's future

Fernando Escartin surprised many recently when it was announced that he would leave his long-time Kelme team to join German division II team Coast next year. Escartin, along with Alex Zülle and others will help to push the team into division I in 2001. Escartin has ridden for Kelme since 1996, and it seemed likely that the 32 year old would finish his career with them, however the Germans made a better offer.

"They gave me two years, and economically it was better with my age," he said. "We had hoped to sign a contract before the Vuelta finished, although there was a clause that said I could go to another team if a better offer arose. It will be a change of scene after a long time in Kelme, but I feel like it is my first year as a pro."

Escartin didn't win the Vuelta this year, but placed in the top ten and was satisfied with this. He considered it "positive" and will now concentrate on the last few races of the season before taking a winter break. The Subida Naranco and the Criterium de Zaragoza are on his program.

He admits that a Tour de France start will be tough next year, depending on how the points fall out. The exodus of Spanish riders to foreign teams has been due to the lack of sponsorship in Spain, and the growing market in other countries. Kelme have been hit hard again with the loss of Rubiera, Escartin and Heras, but they will continue next year on their modest budget and determined riders.

Finally, Escartin believes that Spain will rule the time trial in Sydney, although the road race will be harder to pick. "Hopefully the medal of Llaneras is a positive omen for Spanish cycling.

Jaja has no offer yet

Despite announcing that he would leave ONCE next season, former world number one, Laurent Jalabert has yet to find a team for 2001. He hopes to return to a French team, however most of them do not have the budget or have filled their rosters for next season. Jalabert told French daily, l'Equipe, that there was only one French team with a spot but he didn't specify which one.

"No solid proposals came to me. Now the gate is open for me to ride in a foreign team," said Jalabert who would like to finish his career in a French team.

Virenque likely for Alexia

Along a similar line, Richard Virenque will probably ride next for the Italian team Alexia Alluminio, after his current team Polti will fold next season. Virenque had other offers, but none from French teams.

"We've only talked about some details. I will sign after the World Championships in Plouay," said Virenque.

Spaniards sign for McCartney

Linda McCartney have confirmed the addition of two more Spanish riders to their roster for 2001: Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero and Juan Carlos Dominguez (both ex-Vitalicio). They will join Inigo Cuesta (ONCE) who signed earlier for the team.

Rider payment - Mauri disappointed

The subject of delayed rider payments has cropped up recently, as the season approached its conclusion. Many teams are "wheeling and dealing" for 2001, offering lucrative contracts to riders with UCI points while paying less attention to their existing lineup. One example of this is Benfica's Melchior Mauri, who will not ride for the team next season after two years with the team. The reason, claims Mauri, is a three month delay in wages and he is not the only one in this position.

It was about this time last year when Mauri and others in Benfica complained of slow wages, and the situation was eventually rectified and they continued riding this year. Mauri, together with Daniel Bayés Prat, Jorge Silva and Hugo Lucio sent a letter to the director of Benfica where they threatened to withdraw from the Gran Premio de los Mosqueteros (a three day race in Portugal) if things weren't sorted out. They did end up competing out of respect to Benfica, but the favour it seems was not returned.

"We haven't been paid since June," said Mauri to Spanish newsagency EFE. "The team does not have the morale and psychological condition to race at the top level." Mauri then drafted another letter to the management which was signed by 17 members of the team.

However, the director of Benfica, Antonio Brás promised that payments would be made, "this happens to all teams around the world. I do not have anything against Mauri and the others, but the team is going to be stronger next year."

"I don't feel good about directing a team with slow wages. However, now you will see yourselves as true 'Benfiquistas'. A month of delay is normal," added Bras reassuringly.

Sweet transfers to Batavus

The younger of the Sweet brothers, Corey Sweet, has signed a contract for next season with Dutch division II team, Batavus. He left his current division III team, Hohenfelder Concorde after some success this season. A potential deal with his old team, Coast did not come off

Velo positive

Italian time trial champion in 1999 and 2000 will be stripped of his title after it was found that he tested positive for salbutamol during the Championships in June. Velo, who rides for Mercatone Uno, had his "B" sample confirmed in Lausanne recently.

Dutch championships move

The Dutch road championships will not be held in Gulpen-Wittem next year, as they were the last two years. The organiser of the event, Top Sports marketing, and the council of Gulpen-Wittem couldn't agree about a new contract. It's not yet known where the championships will be next year.