By Andrew Hood
American Levi Leipheimer has signed a one-year contract to continue with the Dutch Rabobank team for the 2004 season.
Leipheimer, who turns 30 on Friday, said he signed the contract extension before the end of the 2003 Vuelta a España, where he finished 58th overall.
Leipheimer penned a two-year deal with Rabobank after his breakthrough third-place podium finish in the 2001 Vuelta, becoming the first American to finish on the Vuelta’s final podium.
In 2002, he won a stage and the overall title at the Route du Sud and finished an impressive eighth-place in his Tour de France debut.
Leipheimer’s 2003 season was short-circuited, however, when he was caught up in a costly crash in the first stage of the Tour de France and was forced to sit out several weeks to recover from a fractured bone in his hip and other injuries.
Leipheimer came into the Vuelta still needing some time to recover from his Tour crash, but finished strong and provided key support to teammate Michael Rasmussen, who finished seventh overall and won a stage. Leipheimer rode to 13th in the elite men’s time trial in the road world championships earlier this month. UCI World Rankings released
Rankings as of Monday, October 20, 2003
1. Paolo Bettini (I), 2266 pts
2. Erik Zabel (G), 2087
3. Alessandro Petacchi (I), 1989
4. Gilberto Simoni (I), 1715
5. Davide Rebellin (I), 1656
6. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kz), 1640
7. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), 1611
8. Lance Armstrong (USA), 1521
9. Michael Boogerd (Nl), 1441
10. Iban Mayo (Sp), 1425
11. Tyler Hamilton (USA), 1363
12. Danilo Di Luca (I), 1344
13. Francesco Casagrande (I), 1322
14. Dario Frigo (I), 1265
15. Jan Ullrich (G), 1258
16. Mirko Celestino (I), 1183
17. Isidro Nozal (Sp), 1150
18. Peter Van Petegem (B), 1123
19. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), 1121
20. David Millar (GB), 1092
21. Baden Cooke (Aus), 1085
22. Stefano Garzelli (I), 1019
23. Igor Astarloa (Sp), 999
24. Roberto Heras (Sp), 963
25. Laurent Brochard (F), 961
Rich wins Herbiers time trial
German rider Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner) won Sunday’s Herbiers time trial in France. Only Bert Roesems (Palmans-Collstrop), second at 32 seconds slower, spoiled the Gerolsteiner podium sweep on the 48km course which closed the 2003 French racing season.
Herbiers time trial, France (UCI 1.3)
1. Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner) 48.1km in 1 hour, 23 seconds
2. Bert Roesems (Palmans-Collstrop) +0:32
3. Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) +1:07
4. Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) +1:12
5. Eddy Seigneur (Jean Delatour) +1:22
Gutiérrez gives Banesto swan-song victory
José Iván Gutiérrez gave his iBanesto.com team a swansong victory in the season’s final race in the Montjuic climbing race Sunday in Spain. Gutiérrez was a last-minute replacement for teammate Francisco Mancebo and delivered the win for Banesto, which is leaving the sport after this season.
The race was split into a morning climbing time trial and an afternoon road race and won both legs. The race marks the end of the Spanish racing calendar for the 2003 season.
Final overall, Montjuic race, Spain (UCI 1.3)
1. Iván Gutiérrez (ibanesto.com) 1 hour, 2 minutes, 44 seconds
2. Santiago Pérez (Phonak) +0:35
3. Joaquín Rodríguez (ONCE-Eroski) +0:37
4. Luis Pérez (Cofidis) +0:57
5. Unai Osa (ibanesto.com) +1:15
Balearic deal not dead in water yet
Officials from the Banesto team were scheduled to fly to the Balearic islands Monday to revive talks about picking up the title sponsorship for the team.
Banesto team manager José Miguel Echavarri and sport director Eusebio Unzué flew to Mallorca to meet with regional government president Jaume Matas.
The Balearic Islands regional government wants to use the team sponsorship to promote tourism on the group of four islands off the Spanish coast, but talks were sidelined when 1997 Tour de France champion rejoined Telekom for the upcoming season.
The Balearic Islands are visited by millions of German tourists each year and the potential sponsors wanted to sign Ullrich to increase the team’s profile in the lucrative market.
According to reports on the Spanish wires, a three-year deal with an annual 6 million-euro budget is back in the table. Banesto, the Spanish bank that’s sponsored the team for 14 years, has promised to stay on as a co-sponsor. Fassa Bortolo reloads for 2004
The arrival of American Tom Danielson to Fassa Bortolo next season is part of a major rebuilding process for the world’s No. 1 ranked team. Team leaders Aitor Gonzalez and Dario Frigo remain in place, but in all eight riders are leaving Fassa at the end of the season.
Major departures include Classics man Michele Bartoli and Tour de France hopeful Ivan Basso, both of whom are heading to Team CSC. Other departures include Serguei Ivanov (to Telekom), Sven Montgomery (to Gerolsteiner), Gorazd Stangelj (to Saeco), Tadej Valjavec (to Phonak) and Nicola Loda (to Tenax).
Other new arrivals include Juan Antonio Flecha (from Banesto), Alberto Ongarato (Domina Vacanze), Massimo Codol (Mercatone Uno) and Fabio Sacchi (Saeco).