By Andrew Hood
A day following the news that Team Coast was suspended by the UCI, former teammate and CSC team manager Bjarne Riis said Jan Ullrich is still welcome to join his team. Riis tried in vain to sign Ullrich over the off-season, but Ullrich opted for the German Team Coast, signing a three-year deal worth a reported $5 million.
“There’s always interest, but if he wants to collaborate with us, it has to be him who makes the initiative,” Riis told the Danish newspaper BT. “I spoke before with (Ullrich’s agent) to hear about how things were going. It’s up to Jan if he wants to come to our team.”
Riis and Ullrich were close when they raced together at Telekom, with Riis winning the 1996 Tour and Ullrich taking his only Tour victory in 1997. Ullrich was reportedly close to signing with CSC, but Riis couldn’t find a co-sponsor to replace Tiscali and the German went for a sweeter deal with Team Coast.
Team Coast was suspended from racing Thursday by the UCI until money problems can be sorted out. The team will be allowed to finish the Tour of Murcia, but will not be allowed to start Paris-Nice on Sunday.
Several riders and staff have not been paid and there’s a dispute over withholding a 16-percent tax from rider’s paychecks. German millionaire and team owner Gunther Dahms said it’s just a matter of sorting out some paper work, but many riders, including retired Spanish star Fernando Escartin and Alex Zülle, insist they have not been fully paid from last year.
Leblanc: Coast could still ride Tour
Team Coast, suspended this week for flouting the UCI’s financial rules, still has every chance of taking part in this summer’s Tour de France.
“Coast is temporarily suspended, but if the team falls back into line it’ll be allowed back on board,” Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc told the French wire service AFP on Friday.
“The Tour is not privy to the nature of Coast’s troubles,” he added. “It’s up to the UCI to work out whether this team is being properly run in line with the regulations. If that’s not the case the Tour will replace Coast when the time comes with another outfit.”
Team Coast was suspended Thursday after the team failed to provide proof that all their employees’ monthly salaries for January had been paid on time.
Some of their riders are currently taking part in the Tour of Murcia and have been allowed to continue. But they will not be allowed to line up in the first major French stage race of the season, the Paris-Nice, which starts Sunday.
Team Coast is among the world’s top 10 and was registered as a first division team by the UCI on January 10 under certain conditions – top among which was that riders’ monthly salaries would be paid on time.
Paris-Roubaix teams announced
Teams were announced Friday for the upcoming Paris-Roubaix.France
AG2R, Cofidis, Credit Agricole, FDJeux.com, Jean Delatour, Brioches La Boulangere
Alessio, Domina Vacanze, Fassa Bortolo, Lampre, Saeco, Sidermec
Gerolsteiner, Telekom, Team Coast*
Landbouwkrediet, Lotto-Domo, Palmans-Collstrop, Quick Step
U.S Postal Service*currently under suspension
Armstrong hopes for diplomatic solution
In an interview with Spanish radio, four-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong said he’s opposed to a war against Iraq. Armstrong is friends with President George W. Bush, but said he’d prefer a peaceful solution to the crisis.
“He’s a personal friend of mine, but we all have the right to disagree with our friends,” Armstrong told the Spanish Cadena Ser radio station. “And I have told him that I am not in favor of the war. I believe that we should consider the opinion of other strong nations in the world. To enter the war alone would be an error. But he has the information, he’s the president. What I think doesn’t really matter. I would always prefer for a peaceful resolution and oppose a war.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Armstrong also said he might return to the Vuelta a España, where he finished fourth in 1998, and insisted he never said he could win six Tours.
“Every time they ask me that, I say I don’t know, then I read in the paper, ‘I am going to win six Tours.’ I would never be so presumptuous and or crazy enough to say it. Certainly, I will try to win a Tour then later another. If I end up with four, five or six, well, that’s fine.”
Armstrong is making his season debut in the Tour of Murcia this week.
Museeuw, Bettini sick
Both Johan Museeuw and Paolo Bettini have the flu and are only expected to be out for three days, Quick Step reported Thursday. Museeuw, fresh off his victory at Het Volk last weekend, said he started feeling bad this week.
“I started feeling tired and my legs were heavy yesterday while training with my father. After a while, I had to ask my dad to slow down, this is something normally doesn’t happen,” Museeuw said. “At first I thought I hadn’t recovered from racing Saturday and Sunday, but then I started to sweat in the evening and I realized my temperature was rising.”
Bettini finished third in Quick Step’s dominant ride at Het Volk, but said he felt bad this week as well.
“Johan is in the same situation as me,” Bettini said. “We both agree that it’s a lot better to be ill now than later on when the important races of the season begin.”