By VeloNews Interactive
Team Coast’s loss is the Postal team’s gain. Nope Lance Armstrong hasn’t recruited Jan Ullrich for this year’s Tour de France, but the team did announce on Thursday that it had signed former Coastie Manuel Beltran for the remainder of the 2003 season.
Following Team Coast’s second suspension of the year for financial problems, UCI rules allow riders to negate their existing contracts with the team and become a cycling equivalent of a free agent. Ullrich announced his plans to leave Coast on Wednesday and Beltran finalized a deal with Postal on Thursday.
“This is a great addition to our team,” said USPS team director Johan Bruyneel in a release issued Thursday afternoon. “Manuel is a well known climber and has proven his outstanding qualities in the past at some of the sport’s biggest events. This addition will definitely make our team a lot stronger. You can never be strong enough and when climbers of this type become available, we felt it only made sense to pursue a rider of this talent.”
The 31-year-old Beltran has twice finished in the top 10 at the Vuelta a España (seventh in 1999 with Banesto and ninth in 2002 as a member of Coast) and also has placed in the top 15 at the Tour de France on two occasions (11th with Mapei in 2000 and 14th with Banesto in 1997). A professional since 1995, Beltran won his first race in 1999, taking the difficult Tour of Catalunya over his now-teammate Roberto Heras.
“I’m sure his character and personality will fit in perfectly with our team,” added Bruyneel. “His is very outgoing and will get along very well with the current team members.”