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By Andrew Hood
Raimondas Rumsas, third place at the 2002 Tour de France, was a “nowhere man” in Thursday’s Tour presentation in Paris. Not only was he not there for the unveiling of the 2003 Tour route, his photo was reportedly not shown as well.
Typically, the Tour shows photos of the top-three podium finishers, but this year organizers only showed pictures of winners of each individual classification with nary a pic of the Lithuanian. Rumsas has also been fired from his Lampre team after his wife, Edita, was caught by French police at the French-Italian border in late July carrying alleged doping substances in the trunk of the car.
Jean-Marie Leblanc alluded to Rumsas when he said, “The prestige of the Tour cannot be at the mercy of the contents of a trunk of a car.”
Zülle still without contract
Two-time Tour de France runner-up Alex Zülle said he might retire instead of taking a pay cut. The 34-year-old Swiss racer has an offer on the table from Team Coast, but for less than he’s been paid the past two seasons, according to the German wires.
Zülle insists he won’t ride for less money and is looking for another team or threatening to retire. After a poor 2001 season, Zülle rebounded strong this year to win the Tour of Switzerland. Zülle finished second at the Tour behind Miguel Indurain in 1995 and second again behind Lance Armstrong in 1999. He won two Vueltas a España.
ONCE rounds out team for 2003
The Spanish ONCE team is signing some younger riders to bolster its lineup for next season which largely is unchanged from this year. Team leaders Joseba Beloki (second at 2002 Tour, third at 2002 Vuelta) and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (bronze world time trial medal, yellow jersey at Tour) will lead ONCE in the grand tours. Major departures include former world champion and Vuelta Abraham Olano, who is retiring after this season. The team is close to re-signing Mikel Zarrabeitia, who held the jersey oro for one day in this year’s Vuelta, and Mikel Pradera.
French veteran Simon retiring
Francois Simon said he’ll retire because he cannot find a contract for the 2003 season. Simon, 34, raced with Bonjour this year, but couldn’t find a deal to carry him through another season on the road.
The youngest of the four Simon brothers, Francois couldn’t match his brothers with a victory in the Tour. Simon is best remembered for carrying the maillot jaune in the 2001 Tour de France after he was part of a monster break that got away before giving way to Lance Armstrong in the Pyrenees.
Etape du Tour
The popular mass ride called the Etape du Tour held each year on a stage of the Tour de France course will be held between Pau and Bayonne, the 11th stage of the 2003 Tour. More than 7500 cyclo-tourists will ride the 197.5-km stage three days before the pros get there in one of the most traditions of the Tour. Registration begins Jan. 29, 2003.
Shefer signs with Saeco
Kazakh racer Alexandr Shefer has signed a deal for the 2003 season to race with Saeco-Longoni Sport. Shefer, 31, won the Tour of Tuscany and a stage of the Ruta del Sol this year. He was also second in the GP de Chiasso, the Tour of Aragon and the Tour of Appenins. A pro since 1993, Shefer rode with Alessio this year.