No details, but Health Net star will be in NY and SF
By Jonathan Fowlie, Special to VeloNews
Health Net’s Gord Fraser will no longer be barred from some ofNorth America’s most prestigious road races, after a legal settlement reached on Tuesday.
Fraser, long regarded as one of the top road racers in North America, had been relegated to the sidelines by Threshold Sports because of a mounting legal argument with the company. (See “Why Gord Fraser and Health Net won’t be in Philly” – June 2, 2003)
“I’m just glad it’s finished,” Fraser said yesterday in a telephone interview from Ottawa, where he is visiting his mother. “I’m looking forward to racing in Threshold events again.”
Fraser filed a lawsuit in May of 2002 accusing Threshold Sports and three other organizations of breach of contract. The dispute stemmed from a $250,000 (U.S.) prize bonus offered by Threshold for any racer who could win all four events in its 2000 BMC Software Grand Prix race series. Fraser won three races, but the final race was cancelled and never rescheduled.
While the suit had never affected Fraser’s ability to race in Threshold events before, he was informed this past April that he would not be welcome on the starting line at any of the company’s races until the dispute had been settled.
“It was always made clear to me that [Threshold] was involved in a lawsuit with Gord and they didn’t want him to participate in their races,” said Greg Raifman, the chief executive officer of the company that manages Fraser’s Health Net professional cycling team.
“It’s like Tiger Woods missing all the majors,” Fraser said of being kept from Threshold events before the settlement was reached.
Raifman said Threshold informed him by e-mail on April 29 that his team would not be invited to the Wachovia USPRO Championships in Philadelphia, which was held last Sunday and is widely seen as the biggest single-day race in North America, if Fraser were on the roster.
Raifman balked at the restriction and he was soon informed that the entire team had been barred from Threshold events. Last week, however, a last-minute compromise allowed the American members of the Health Net squad to participate in the Philadelphia race (see “Health Net – but not Fraser – going to Philly” – June 5, 2003)
“Missing Philadelphia was really hard, especially this year,” Fraser said. “It was a 60-rider bunch sprint for first place, and that’s got my name written all over it.”
In addition to the USPRO race, in which the U.S. national champion is decided, Threshold puts on events such as the New York City Cycling Championship in August and the San Francisco Grand Prix in September.
Coincidentally, Threshold is offering a $1 million bonus to the rider who this wins all three of its top events: Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco. The Philadelphia race was won by Saeco’s Stefano Zanini, now the only rider with a shot at the bonus.
With the help of a Philadelphia judge, all parties reached a settlement on Tuesday, meaning Fraser can drop the suit. Negotiations are under way to determine what information about the deal will be released.
Fraser had been asking for restitution of benefits, legal costs and other damages.
While Threshold CEO David Chauner could not be reached for commentWednesday, he said in an interview before Tuesday’s meeting, “I thinkwe’re expecting Gord to drop the lawsuit, and if he does, then everything will be great.”
The fourth race in the BMC Grand Prix was cancelled because NicoleReinhart, a racer in the women’s field who had also won three of the races, was killed in a crash on the final lap of the decisive event.
Threshold and BMC arranged to have the $250,000 prize money for the women’s title donated to a foundation for Reinhart. The men’s race was cancelled immediately after the accident.
Former VeloNews intern Jonathan Fowlie now writes for the Toronto Globe and Mail.