By VeloNews Interactive
After solicitations from several European teams after his third place at September’s Vuelta a España, American Levi Leipheimer signed a lucrative contract with the top Dutch team, Rabobank. It was an offer that his present team, U.S. Postal Service, couldn’t match. Rabobank is hoping that Leipheimer will be the Tour de France contender it has been seeking for a number of years.
Giro d’Italia winner Gilberto Simoni will ride for the Italian Saeco team next season. Simoni signed a two-year contract with the team and will join Tour of Lombardy winner Danilo Di Luca, who transfers from Cantina Tollo.
Fassa Bortolo announced that it has added former world time trial champion Sergei Gontchar, up-and-coming Swiss-American rider Sven Montgomery and Italian veteran Giani Faresin.
Italian star Andrea Tafi has extended his contract with Mapei-Quick Step for another year. The 35-year-old Tuscan is probably looking at his final season in 2002, after having recovered from injuries that required surgery last May.
Richard Virenque has re-signed with the Domo-Farm Frites squad for an additional two years. The five-time Tour de France King of the Mountains came back from suspension this fall and scored a surprise victory at the Paris-Tours World Cup classic. Virenque said that “a sixth polka-dot jersey in the Tour will be one of my objectives.”
Euskaltel’s Txema Del Olmo has signed with the Portuguese Maia-Milaneza squad. Euskaltel did not renew the Spanish rider’s contract following his “non-negative” drug control for EPO at the prologue of this year’s Tour de France.
Belgian Fabien De Waele will move from Lotto-Adecco to Mapei next season. The 26-year-old took stage wins at Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné-Libéré this season.
Englishman Jamie Burrow has signed a two-year contract with Italian outfit Amore & Vita-Beretta. The 24-year-old, who lives in Italy with his wife, began his pro career with the U.S. Postal team, but his two years with Postal saw only 45 racing days because of a series of injuries. Burrow hopes to compete in the Giro d’Italia next season.
Up-and-coming Austrian cyclist Gerhard Trampusch will ride for the Mapei team next year. The 23-year-old, who was known for his climbing qualities as a junior before joining the German Telekom squad, will join 20-year-old compatriot Bernhard Eisel in Italy.
Mapei has announced that it will field two teams next season — a Division 1 team and a Division 3 team — to satisfy the new UCI rule limiting professional teams to 25 riders starting in 2002. Mapei is following the example of the Crédit Agricole organization, which this season fielded its main Division 1 team and a Division 3 “espoirs” squad.
Cofidis has added three new riders in the off-season, including former U.S. Postal rider Cédric Vasseur. Vasseur is joined by Madison world champion Jérôme Neuville (Crédit Agricole) and Spaniard Bingen Fernandez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
Australian Baden Cooke, co-winner of the BMC Software series in the U.S., is one of six new faces for La Française des Jeux. Cooke is joined by fellow Australian Matthew Wilson, British pursuiter Brad Wiggins, Jean-Cyril Robin, Carlos Da Cruz and Franck Pencolé.