The Week That Was...
Ian comments on the happenings in the world of cycling.
As reported last week, Spanish journeyman, Joseba Beloki, looked increasingly likely to re-join his former Director, Manolo Saiz, at Liberty Seguros after the cancellation of his contract with Saunier Duval. Speaking to the Spanish website Marca, Saiz commented that, "I can't deny that this is interesting. Not only for our friendship and the personal relationship that we have - it's interesting because Joseba still has a lot to offer on a sporting level." When pressed on how difficult it would be to amalgamate the former tour podium finisher into the squad with double Vuelta winner, Roberto Heras, Saiz continued, "It wouldn't necessarily be incompatible, on the contrary. The more good riders, the better. And there are never any problems between true great riders; only between those who think they are." Within days, Saiz confirmed the deal and stated that, "With Beloki we are a bit better than in this last year." Beloki himself was encouraged by his third transfer in only 12 months and that this was indeed the final piece to the jigsaw that could see him back at the top of the sport. "I'm in good shape," he said. "If I didn't believe that I wouldn't have separated from La Boulang?re and bought my freedom from Saunier now. I believe in my capabilities and needed some fresh air, that's why I've made this step. I want to return to what I used to be and once again ride the Tour." <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
2003 World Champion, Igor Astarloa, is still awaiting confirmation as to which team he will represent in the inaugural Pro Tour. A victim of the early season ?Cofidis affair?, Astarloa transferred to the Lampre squad mid-season but after a low-key Giro d?Italia, the Spaniard never seemed to find his legs. Although he originally signed a two-year contract with the Italian team, following their marriage with the rival Saeco squad this deal is now considered void and until now, he has been unable to agree terms with the new Lampre-Caffitta management. One possible location for the rider was tipped to be Team CSC but Director Bjarne Riis rapidly quashed this rumour. It will be difficult for us to hire (Astarloa), for now, we simply don't have the budget.?
Another rider leaving the Lampre team is former Tour stage winner, Jan Svorada. "Several solutions were possible, but I didn't succeed," said the 36-year-old Czech sprinter. Svorada will instead join the eD'system ZVVZ team based in his home country.
Last week Italian Classics star, Michele Bartoli, announced his retirement from the sport in a press conference held in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>