January 31, 2004
Dmitri Konyshev, teammates charged in alleged prostitute shakedownProcycling.com | Konyshev arrested for alleged assault on prostitute
Konyshev, who was second to Greg Lemond in the 1989 world championships and third in 1992, has won four Tour stages over the years, was arrested after a Romanian prostitute in the Italian town of Motale claimed the 37-year-old Konyshev and three teammates tried to force her into a car, claiming they were police. She claims she escaped, but lost her purse containing 150 euros.
Konyshev and his teammates have been charged with assault, theft, and attempted kidnapping.
Verbruggen, tired of black eye, to sign on to WADA codeYahoo! Sport - We'll sign WADA doping code but key issues to be resolved: UCI
The UCI’s tentative agreement leaves the international soccer organization, FIFA, as the last major Olympic sport outside of WADA’s umbrella.
The Olympic Games have made participation in future Olympics contingent on acceptance of the WADA code. WADA’s head, Dick Pound, is a former IOC official.
January 26, 2004
Lawyer says Gaumont admitted EPO useBBC Sport | Cofidis rider admits EPO use
"Philippe Gaumont has admitted to doping," his lawyer Olivier Combe said.
"He also explained some unfortunate things that are happening in the (cycling) system."
Apparently, Gaumont also admitted to giving EPO to another rider. While EPO use is not illegal in France, distribution of the drug is.
Armstrong on Crow relationship: "I've never been happier"
USA Today's Sal Ruibal talked to Armstrong about his high-profile relationship with singer Sheryl Crow:
"I'm in a good, happy place," he says. "I've never been happier."
He's not kidding. The 32-year-old Armstrong's contentment comes from a new relationship with 41-year-old rock singer Sheryl Crow.
"Yeah, I wasn't single very long," he says, recovering from a solo training ride in winding roads near Santa Barbara. "I wasn't planning this, but then you meet somebody."
Armstrong says Crow and his mother Linda have bonded:
"They're inseparable," he says. "She almost talks more with my mom than I do."
Armstrong: Not so fast on Tour de Georgia
We told you we'd keep you in the loop about when / where Lance will race in the USA this season - here's an official statement re: this matter - "Five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong will have a decision on his North American race calendar this week. Despite earlier news reports, no decision has been made regarding the Tour de Georgia. "We are pleased to hear that the Tour of Georgia has secured a renewal from Dodge as title sponsor," said Bill Stapleton, chief executive officer of Tailwind Sports and Armstrong's agent. "Lance and Johan are at team camp reviewing his training and race calendar. They will determine which race will help prepare Lance for the Tour de France," said Stapleton.
January 25, 2004
Armstrong aims at Olympics, but has doubts
Here's another story taken from one of Lance Armstrong's answers at the press conference at the USPS presentation in Solvang, this one focused on his chances at the Athens Olympics:
"My plan is to race in Athens but it's going to be very difficult," Armstrong said here at a pre-season interview session.
"Twenty days after the Tour de France, it's probably the toughest period you have. Get into another work cycle and trying to get that back into the Olympic Games is going to be very difficult.
"Potentially the best riders at the Olympics will be people who either skipped the Tour or people who did only half of the Tour or people who use the Tour strictly as preparation."
Tour Down Under wraps up
(Click through to GrahamWatson.com galleries)
Cycling's number-one photographer has been getting in his early-season training, and has some great shots from the Tour Down Under, which finished today, with a stage win for Aussie Baden Cooke, and an overall victory for veteran Patrick Jonker, who had announced his retirement after this race.
Cooke pipped Robbie McEwen on the line, renewing the rivalry from the 2003 Tour's green jersey competition.
Vasseur proclaims innocence as Cofidis probe continuesProcycling.com | Vasseur: "I'm in the clear"
“They asked me questions about myself and about other members of the team, about how a cycling team works and relationships in the team. I don’t know exactly what evidence the investigators have on others but I know that there’s nothing against my name.”
Still under investigation are current Cofidis rider Philippe Gaumont, former Cofidis riders Robert Sassone and Marek Rutkiewicz, and current Cofidis soigneur Bogdan Madejak.
Armstrong speaks at US Postal presentationVelonews | U.S. Postal presents 2004 squad; Armstrong answers critics
Armstrong stopped short of confirming his participation in the Tour de Georgia, announced by race organizers last week::
Regarding his race schedule, rumored to include a domestic stop at either the Tour of Georgia or the Tour of the Gila in April, Armstrong said: "We'll be starting in Portugal, then to Murcia like we've always done ... Milan-San Remo, perhaps, Criterium International, Bicicleta Vasca, and the Tour de France. As for a domestic race, we're still working on that. There will definitely be a domestic race in April, either the Tour of Georgia or the Tour of the Gila."
Armstrong also criticized Tour de France organizers for a rule change in this year's team time trial, a stage U.S. Postal Service won in 2003:
Meanwhile, he delivered a sharp criticism of the Tour organization's decision to implement a 150-second time-loss cap in the team time trial.
"I still don't know that I understand that, but it's their race, and their rules, and they're free to change and do what they choose," Armstrong said. "But if you consider a team with strong climbers gets to the second time check, and that's only halfway through the race, and they're already two-and-a-half minutes down, what do you think they're going to do? They're going to sit up and take it easy. If that makes for good sport, and good TV, and good interest, I'd be surprised."
The organization of the training camp gives an insight into which riders the Posties will try to place in the spring classics, and what new faces we might see on the 2004 Tour roster:
Armstrong's 2004 team is a big one, and he said that training rides have been divided into two groups: a faster spring-classics group and an easier-paced Tour cluster. Riders in the first group include Viatcheslav Ekimov, Floyd Landis, Ryder Hesjedal, Max Van Heeswijk and George Hincapie; the second group includes Armstrong, Jose Luis Rubiera, Manuel Beltran, Michael Creed and Damon Kluck.
Asked if he considers carrying on beyond 2004:
"I think so. As I said in Belgium, I think you were there six weeks ago or so, but a lot depends on the organization and I would want to keep this organization going. I think for a final season I wouldn’t really want to a completely new organization in a different country with a different style of racing and a different style of running the program, a different set of equipment, a different language. I can really see myself racing in 2005 but it would have to be with Johan Bruyneel and these guys."
January 23, 2004
Museeuw cleared, for now, by test resultsVeloNews | Museeuw cleared after samples tested
In a story by Agence France Presse, VeloNews reports that Belgian Johan Museeuw has been cleared by blood and urine tests.
The 38-year-old, who will ride his last season with his Quick Step team this season, says he now wants to concentrate on claiming his 12th career victory in the World Cup classics.
"I'm happy these results turned out to be completely negative. Now I can concentrate fully on my main aim, which is to win a 12th World Cup race," Museeuw told a press conference.
"Suspect substances" found at Museeuw's home are still being analyzed.
UCI to test for blood boostingYahoo! Sport | Blood transfusions detectable from this season: UCI
The UCI will adopt a new test to detect blood transfusions used to boost red blood cell levels.
Hein Verbruggen, UCI president, says the test will detect both transfusions from another rider with the same blood type, and self-transfusions:
"There is an Australian test which can determine, with more or less 100 percent certainty, whether any manipulation has taken place," Verbruggen told AFP Friday.
...Verbruggen added: "In 999 cases out of 1,000, we will be able to tell if there has been manipulation. But we cannot rely on that alone to sanction (the athlete), so we will do as we do for haematocrit."
Since the effect of EPO lingers after the drug is detectable, the UCI prohibits riders from racing with a hematocrit higher than 50.
Lance Armstrong to headline Tour de GeorgiaLance Armstrong to ride in Tour de Georgia
Lance Armstrong will be riding in the Tour de Georgia, from April 20-25th. The tour's site hasn't been updated yet, but Armstrong's agent 'confirmed Thursday that America's most famous cyclist will lead the USPS team' in the Tour's second edition.
Dodge was confirmed as the Tour sponsor earlier this week, and the race route should be finalized in the next week or so.
From memory, it will be Armstrong's first race in Georgia since the 1996 Olympics, just before the discovery of his testicular cancer.
Update: Here's the story from the Macon Telegraph, which notes it will be the only North American race for Armstrong during his Tour prep.
French cycling officials to summit on dopingYahoo! Sports | French minister calls anti-doping meeting
French Sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour will preside over a special meeting of the country's cycling chiefs on Friday as their sport is engulfed in another doping scandal.
The scandal centres around the Cofidis team after police questioned riders Cedric Vasseur and Philippe Gaumont about the alleged trafficking of banned substances.
Gaumont was released on Wednesday but placed under official investigation, judicial sources said. Vasseur, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for five days in 1997, was freed without charge on Thursday.
Belgian doping inquiry continues, as wellProcycling.com | Museeuw questioned again by doping inquiry
Lest we forget, the Cofidis probe isn't the only drug inquiry underway — four Belgians are being questioned, including Johan Museeuw.
The riders are suspected of getting banned products from a veterinarian, Jos Landuyt. The riders' homes were searched in September, and the riders have recently been questioned again, but so far, no charges have been filed.
Cofidis probe continues with allegations of blood dopingYahoo! Sport | Cofidis affair deepens as police intensify probe
The president of the country's cycling federation, Jean Pitallier, admits there has been progress since the Festina affair ominously demonstrated the extent of doping in the peloton.
But he insisted that teams had to take more responsibility.
"We have to lay down the law in this case and introduce prison sentences for those who are found guilty," Pitallier told AFP.
"I want an example to be made of these people."
Clearly, the use of performance-enhancing substances, including anabolic steroids, HGH and EPO, are dangerous to the integrity of the sport.
But this Yahoo! Sport article suggests that riders are buying blood — finding other riders with the same blood type, and injecting it, which it calls 'doping,' but which is more often called 'blood boosting.' Why would you do this, when you could just save your own blood and reinject it, which doesn't risk intravenous infection or registering a positive based on a drug being used by another rider, whose blood you've injected?
By the way, one-third of the US cycling team at the 1984 Olympics admitted to blood boosting with saved blood (four of the boosters won medals). At the time, the practice was not explicitly prohibited.
Cofidis head Francois Migraine (who seems very appropriately named):
"If I decide to pull out of the sport, cycling will not automatically get better.Listening to: Thank You from the album Sliding Doors by Dido
"But if I find out that I have a team full of 25 riders who are all doped, then there will be no more team."
Millar keeps his distanceProcycling.com | Millar: "It’s got nothing to do with me"
After returning to his French home in Biarritz from the training camp in Spain, Millar described the arrest of several Cofidis team members on suspicion of using and distributing banned substances as simply "isolated" cases that did not reflect the way the team is run.
"I can't really comment on the latest developments, and I've no idea who has been questioned," the Scot told AFP on Wednesday. "All I can say is that it's not a Cofidis problem, and it's certainly got nothing to do with me.
Philippe Gaumont has twice been banned, and L'Equipe has reported that Gaumont admitted to EPO use.
Abt on Kelme demotionIHT.com | Kelme suffers a heartbreaking fall
I've said it before, but Samuel Abt is the best English-language cycling commentator working today.
This is his take on the demotion of Kelme to Division 2:
PARIS - This is a love story, and so it includes trace elements of rejection, threats, humiliation and compromise - the usual - but, above all, love.
Pepe Quilès has nothing but love for bicycle racing: fierce, possessive love. Why else would his Kelme sports shoe company have sponsored a Spanish team for 25 years, an eternity in the sport?
January 20, 2004
Ullrich announces early season race plansYahoo! Sport | Ullrich maps out campaign to dethrone Armstrong
Jan Ullrich has announced the early-season races he plans to contest in preparation for this year's Tour.
- His expected schedule:
- Tour of Murcia (March 3-7)
- Catalan Week (March 22-26)
- Tour of the Sarthe (April 6-9)
- Tour of Cologne (April 12)
- Fleche Wallonne (April 21)
- Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 25)
- Tour of Frankfurt (May 1)
Vasseur, Gaumont arrested in Cofidis probe
Drugs squad officers detained Cedric Vasseur and Philippe Gaumont as they stepped off a flight from Alicante, Spain, and took them away for questioning.
Vasseur, 33, won a stage in the 1997 Tour de France and was a former teammate of five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong at the US Postal team, while 30-year-old Gaumont won a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but five years later was suspended for doping.
Robert Sassone, formerly of the Cofidis team, was formally placed under investigation after EPO, testosterone, amphetamines, growth hormones, and other banned substances were allegedly found in his home in Hyeres.
The team's title sponsor, the Cofidis group, said it will take legal action for defamation in response to the allegations.
January 19, 2004
Basso visits posturologist (?) to improve TTProcycling.com | Basso bending over backwards to beat time trial blues
Ivan Basso, who finished 7th in the 2003 Tour, is concentrating on his time-trialing, where he lost about 10 minutes to Ullrich and Armstrong.
"He's a chiropractor that I'm seeing to improve the mobility of my spine," said Basso of his new guru, the Dane Ole' Soeli. "My problem remains the same: I just can't bend properly, I'm not very aerodynamic and my lack of air penetration penalises me terribly."
"At the same time I'm trying to practice pedalling at very high cadences to improve my agility," the 1999 world under 23 road race champion added.
The ProCycling.com article also quotes former pro rider Davide Cassani as telling Basso in 2001 he looked '"bloody awful" in the saddle.'
Ullrich, T-Mobile team presented
Jan Ullrich says he's optimistic he can move up a step on the Tour de France final podium this year, on the strength of his T-Mobile team, the latest incarnation of the Telekom team that helped Ullrich win the 1997 Tour.
Ullrich is due to compete for the first time in the Tour of Murcia in March.
"If all the riders are in top form at the start of the Tour de France then we will be the main adversaries for Armstrong," added Ullrich, who returned to the team after brief stays with the financially troubled Coast team and then the Bianchi outfit for whom he raced in the 2003 Tour de France.
Alexandre Vinokourov, who finished 3rd in the 2003 Tour, seems to have ambitions of his own:
"The best rider will be the leader, and I'm ready to assume that role," Vinokourov commented. Downplaying any sense of competition within the team, he welcomed back the man who has built his career in the Telekom ranks.
"I'm happy to have Ullrich back in the team because we're good friends," Vinokourov added.
Other name riders for T-Mobile include Santiago Botero, Erik Zabel, Australia's Cadel Evans, Daniele Nardello, and Paolo Savoldelli.
For even more in-depth coverage, check out ProCycling.com's story.
January 16, 2004
Kelme to survive, new lead sponsor
The Spanish team, demoted to Division 2, will continue as Communidad Valenciana-Kelme after a 1.8 million euro infusion from CV, the regional council of Valencia.
No word on the fate of the squad's leader, Alejandro Valverde, who is reportedly considering a transfer.
January 15, 2004
Ullrich starts training, bike doesn't
Jan has joined the team training camp in Mallorca, but had to ride a replacement bike instead of his usual training mount.
Kelme's fate to be decided
Today is the deadline for Kelme and Domina Vacanze to finish application for Division 2, after being denied Division 1 status last week.
According to Procycling.com:
On Tuesday Kelme team boss Pepe Quiles turned down the Comunidad Valenciana’s offers to take over the running of the team in exchange for Quiles taking on an honourary role, although there were further negotiations between the two sides during most of Wednesday. It now remains to be seen whether Quiles can now provide the financial guarantees that prevented his team being accepted into the first division by the UCI last week.
Kelme team leader Alejandro Valverde is reported to have traveled to Italy for discussions with Saeco.
USPS presents full roster
There are 8 new riders in the stable, which has expanded to 25 total riders.
The press release points out that all but one of the team's Tour de France team (Roberto Heras, now with Liberty Seguros) have returned for the run at a sixth Tour win for Armstrong.
The full roster:
2004 TEAM ROSTER
Lance ARMSTRONG (USA)
Jose AZEVEDO (POR)
Michael BARRY (CAN)
Manuel BELTRAN (ESP)
Michael CREED (USA)
Antonio CRUZ (USA)
Stijn DEVOLDER (BEL)
Viatcheslav EKIMOV (RUS)
Ryder HESJEDAL (CAN)
George HINCAPIE (USA)
Benoit JOACHIM (LUX)
Damon KLUCK (USA)
Kenny LABBE (USA)
Floyd LANDIS (USA)
Patrick McCARTY (USA)
Gennady MIKHAYLOV (RUS)
Benjamin NOVAL (ESP)
Pavel PADRNOS (CZE)
Victor Hugo PENA (COL)
Daniel RINCON (COL)
Jose Luis RUBIERA (ESP)
Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK (BEL)
Max van HEESWIJK (NED)
Robbie VENTURA (USA)
Dave ZABRISKIE (USA)
Armstrong, Sheryl Crow go public
Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow, who have been rumored to be dating for some time, appeared in public at the premiere of the new Jennifer Aniston-Ben Stiller movie, "Along Came Polly".
Armstrong separated from his wife Kristin last year.
January 14, 2004
Breukink new Rabobank director
After the surprising resignation of Jan Raas, Rabobank promoted Theo de Rooij to team manager, leaving a place for ... Eric Breukink?
The team of American Levi Leipheimer, Oscar Freire, and Marc Wauters has hired former star Eric Breukink, who had been a race commentator on Dutch TV, as their DS, the day-to-day race director of a cycling team.
Cofidis manager responds: "nothing to hide"
Cofidis manager Alain Bondue has claimed that his riders and staff "have nothing to hide" after yesterday’s police raid at team headquarters in Marcq-en-Barouel. It was confirmed today that a French anti-drugs squad had found no illicit substances at the Cofidis property near Lille on Tuesday.
Tyler's tuning up
Good profile of Tyler Freaking Hamilton, and his drive to become the third American to win the Tour. Quite a bit of detail about his switch from CSC to Phonak:
"We had a lot of objectives," said Hamilton, the VeloNews' North American rider of the year. "U.S. Postal had one. You can't say either one is wrong. Both definitely get a lot of publicity for their sponsors. But in a selfish sort of way, I want a team built around me like U.S. Postal is built around Lance.
"And Phonak came to me with that opportunity."
Can Hamilton dethrone Armstrong?
...Armstrong faltered some in the Alps and his winning margin closed from 7 minutes, 17 seconds in 2002 to 1:01 last year. He is a year older. He is going through a divorce. Is he vulnerable? Is he vulnerable to Hamilton?
"He's getting older, and he's got a lot going on," Hamilton said of his former U.S. Postal teammate. "It's hard for him. He has a busy lifestyle. He does a lot. But I know the way Lance works, and he'll be ready."
Three arrests in Cofidis probe
In addition to Bogdan Madejak, the team trainer, arrested on his return to France, and Marek Rutkiewicz, a rider arrested Monday, French police also arrested 2001 world track champion Robert Sassone. AFP claims police found amphetamines and EPO in Sassone's home.
The Cofidis team also includes reigning world champions Igor Astarloa, David Millar, and Laurent Gane, and Australia's Stuart O'Grady.
Americans may best remember Cofidis as the team that signed Lance Armstrong, then dropped his contract when his testicular cancer was diagnosed.
January 13, 2004
Goodbye to Swamps?
Today is Marco Pantani's 34th birthday, and Gazzetto dello Sport quoted the Pirate's father that his son is unlikely to race this year.
Pantani, who ran with the Mercatone Uno team last year, is without a new team for the upcoming cycling season, and Gazzetta reported he was overweight after months of no training.
Pantani, who has a professional record of 36 wins, including 16 stages in the Giro and Tour, could not be reached for comment.
But his agent, Manuela Ronchi, said: "Marco never said he does not want to compete again, although he has not been training lately."
"He's trying to find new motivation for continuing," she said.
In honor of Marco's birthday, I give you one of my favorite Usenet posts of all time, "Pantani (Swamps) Interview":
Armstrong a giant has seemed to him, in front of which all is felt pygmy: "It has me really surprised the way to climb, the walk, the average that was able to sustain. I have seen so many champions, but this goes stronger than the others."
I could go on, but you've just got to read it....
Whassup with Armstrong in the TT?
Through the 2003 Tour time trials, Armstrong lost 1:25 to Jan Ullrich, the man he readily admits is the one rider who can come close to beating him. In fact without the rain on the penultimate day Ullrich's overall time gap to the Texan could have been very slim indeed, as the pair were level pegging on the stage when Ullrich crashed.
Armstrong may have won the overall and taken an historic fifth consecutive Tour but for the first time in five years his individual time-trailing brought him a big zero. Is that another sign of the decline that has been talked about over the the New Year?
The article speculates that the uphill TT in the 2004 Tour should help Armstrong, who has won a lot of mountain stages over the years.
I think it's wrong to make too much of the last TT in the 2003 Tour; once Ullrich went down, Armstrong would have been stupid to go all out to the finish.
Reports are that Armstrong agreed to do the Tour of the Algarve next month in Portugal when organizers added a 20-km TT, which Procycling says is evidence Armstrong "has a TT plan for 2004."
French police raid Cofidis HQ
Police Monday raided the headquarters of the French Cofidis team of reigning world champions Igor Astarloa and David Millar. The squad's current trainer and one of its former team members, Marek Rutkiewicz, are suspected of operating a "vast" drug ring between Eastern Europe and the peloton, reports French daily L'Equipe.
Police stopped Rutkiewicz at de Gaulle airport in Paris on Tuesday, and reportedly found "doping paraphernalia" at the airport.
Apparently, police have also tapped the phone and searched the home of Cofidis trainer Bogdan Madejak.
Official reaction from Francis Van Londersele, the team's manager:
"I'm not worried," the team's manager, Francis Van Londersele, told L'Equipe, stressing that, even if the squad's trainer is in the crossfire, the formation's current stable of riders -- including world champs David Millar (time trial) and Igor Astarloa (road) -- is not.
"Rutkiewicz is no longer a part of this team," Londersele said of the Polish rider dismissed by Cofidis after the 2003 season. "We let him go because of his lack of results -- not for a question of doping."
Update: 5:10 p.m. EST -- BBC Sport reports the raid at Cofidis headquarters turned up nothing incriminating.
January 10, 2004
Kelme likely to survive, miss Tour
In an unsourced story quoting Kelme manager Pepe Quiles, Procycling.com says both Domina Vacanze and Kelme will continue in division two. Although neither will likely qualify for the Tour de France, neither will have to miss any of the races they were planning their seasons around.
Domina Vacanze should still get invitations to the Giro and Milan-San Remo based on former world champion 'Super' Mario Cipollini, while Kelme is likely to ride the Spanish schedule, including the Vuelta.
The two teams have until January 15th to accept Division 2 status.
Virenque sets sights on victory in heights
"Last year I had a great Tour. I'm not getting any younger but I want to have another successful season in 2004 and I'm not even thinking about retiring," Virenque told reporters at a presentation of his Quick Step team.
Virenque said his primary goal for the season is to take a record seventh climber's competition in the 2004 Tour de France. He also predicted that Lance Armstrong will win a record sixth straight Tour.
Ullrich's flu to delay training
AFP reports that Jan Ullrich will miss at least some of T-Mobile's training camp, after coming down with the flu.
"Perhaps it is good to get this illness out of the way so early in the season," explained Ullrich. "Hopefully I can prepare myself thoroughly in the next few weeks without any hiccups."
January 09, 2004
Domina Vacanze, Kelme demoted to Division 2
The UCI has posted its final lineup of Division 1 road teams, and not only was the Kelme team demoted (which may lead to its dissolution), but also Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanze team.
In a VeloNews story Thursday, Kelme officials expressed confidence they had qualified at the last minute, and would remain in Division 1.
Added to Division 1 instead were Palmans Collstrop of Belgium and Relax Bodysol of Spain.
The demoted teams have until January 15th to register as 2nd Division squads, which are less likely to compete in World Cup events.
Update: According to the Yahoo! Sports story on the reclassifications:
Kelme team director Vicente Belda told Spanish state television that the team would continue despite its relegation.
"We have to continue with enthusiasm even though we have dropped into the second division for the sake of all the families that depend on us and for the sake of Spanish cycling fans," he said.
Update: Janna Trevisanut covers the Kelme and Domina Vacanze demotion in incredible detail at dailypeloton.com.
January 08, 2004
AP Wire | Armstrong to lead U.S. team in Portugal event
The AP is reporting that Lance Armstrong will begin his 2004 season with an appearance in the Tour of the Algarve, beginning Feb. 18th.
UCI to finalize division 1, no Kelme?
There is huge concern in Spain that Kelme might fail to fulfil[l] the requirements issued by the UCI to enter the first division and that the long-standing Spanish squad could be ‘relegated’ to division two. Kelme boss Pepe Quiles has told the Spanish press that in this eventuality he will dissolve the team and release the riders from the agreements they have signed.
Today is the January 8 deadline that the UCI set for US Postal, Domina Vacanze, Alessio, Milaneza, and Kelme. Fassa Bortolo was originally among these teams, but was approved December 24th.
Team director Vicente Belda, however, is not hopeful. He told AS: "I fear the worst. The UCI has learned its lesson from cases like Coast and Linda McCartney, and I’m afraid they are going to be inflexible. It’s all the same to them whether we are in the first or second division, all they want to avoid is problems. I know Quiles is ready to dissolve the team and if that happens 40 people will be on the street. Some of them might find a job with a team, Alejandro Valverde and Spanish champion Ruben Plaza for instance, but not many. If the team disappears because of a mix-up over papers someone will be guilty of a mistake. But let’s see if there is a miracle and the UCI takes pity on us, although I fear they won’t."
If Kelme are relegated, the Relax-Bodysol-Fuenlabrada team will replace them in division one.
January 07, 2004
Beloki fitness update
Beloki, whose dramatic crash during Stage 9 of the 2003 Tour sent Lance Armstrong offroad and Beloki's podium chances down in flames, is training in western France for the season ahead.
"I have no worries about my fitness. I always thought my fall could have been worse. I do however still have quite a lot of muscle to put back on."
Beloki, who has finished in the top three in the past four years on the Tour de France, said that race remained his priority.
"For the Tour, I'll prepare in my own way, following a programme I know well."
January 06, 2004
Another USPS defection
Citing the Spanish daily Marca, Procycling.com reports that Colorado's Christian Vande Velde, 27, will follow Roberto Heras to the Liberty Seguros team managed by former ONCE directeur sportif Manolo Saiz.
As with Heras, Vande Velde, who rode in the Tour in 1999 and 2001, still has a year left on his USPS contract, but apparently final details of a contract buyout are being worked out.
Vande Velde is the 19th rider to join Liberty Seguros.