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By Andrew Hood
Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis said he believes Ivan Basso has what it takes to win the Tour de France. In an interview in Monday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, Riis said the 26-year-old is poised for greatness. “Basso will be our man for the Tour. That will be his principal goal,” said the 1996 Tour winner. Basso isn’t expected to start the Giro d’Italia and instead will focus on preparing for the Tour. With Tour stage-winner Tyler Hamilton heading to Phonak next season, Riis was anxious to find a rider with similar qualities to step in as team leader. Riis believes he’s found it in Basso. “He’s ambitious, he’s a great rider and he has the ability to improve,” Riis said. “We will work on his time trialing position and help him in the mountains.” Basso finished seventh overall behind 2003 winner Lance Armstrong despite major losses in the time trial stages. Gotti accepts suspended sentence
Two-time Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Gotti has agreed to an out-of-court settlement of a five-month suspended prison sentence to avoid facing a trial for charges of possessing banned doping products during the 2001 Giro, the Italian wires reported. The now retired Gotti was allegedly using a family camper van that followed along the Giro route to store doping products. Italian authorities raided the RV and found banned products. The 1997 and 1999 pink jersey winner said it was better to accept the suspended sentence rather than face a trial and possible real time if found guilty. Vandenbroucke may march to Fassa
According to reports in L’Equipe, troubled racer Frank Vandenbroucke is headed to Fassa Bortolo next season. Vandenbroucke recently left Quick Step despite one year remaining on his contract. Vandenbroucke seemed to have gotten the worst behind him this spring, bouncing back from injuries and a racing ban to finish second in the Tour of Flanders in April. But he was dogged by health problems throughout the rest of the season and stopped racing in September. Quick Step and VDB parted ways last week in a mutual agreement, according to a release issued by the team. Earlier this month, a Belgian judge opened an inquiry against Vandenbroucke after investigators found banned doping products in his home in February, 2002. Fassa Bortolo is interested in bringing the Belgian classics rider into its stable to replace Michele Bartoli, who will ride next season for Team CSC. Valverde to race Tour
Rising Spanish star Alejandro Valverde will race in the 2004 Tour de France, according to a story in Monday’s edition of the Spanish sports daily AS. With Kelme losing Tour star Oscar Sevilla to Phonak and talks with Francisco Mancebo falling short, the Spanish team will want the world silver medalist to start the Tour a year earlier than expected. Kelme wanted the 23-year-old Valverde, third overall and the winner of two stages in this year’s Vuelta a España, to solely focus on the Vuelta before jumping into the pressure-cooker of the Tour. Kelme would like to sign Tour podium finisher Joseba Beloki, but sport director Vicente Belda said the team’s coffers aren’t deep enough to afford his asking price. More riders for Baleares
The former Banesto lineup, now under the Balearic Islands sponsorship, continues to expand its roster. The team penned deals with Francisco Mancebo, sprinter Isaac Galvez and Toni Tauler for the 2004 season. With the latest addition, the team now boasts 16 riders and is still looking at signing another four to six riders to fill out its lineup. Joseba Beloki’s name has been linked to the team as well.