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By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright AFP2003
Joseba Beloki, who dramatically crashed out of this year’s Tour de France, is still uncertain as to whether he will join team manager Manolo Saiz at his new team.
Saiz announced the name of his new team sponsor on Thursday: Liberty – a company which is part of multinational financial and insurance giant Liberty Mutual.
The five-year sponsorship deal means that Saiz – one of the most experienced team managers on the international circuit – can build a team capable of challenging for major honors over the coming years.
However former Festina rider Beloki – who has twice reached the podium at the Tour – has not been included on the team list and is still uncertain to follow Saiz.
“We’re hoping that he (Beloki) signs, but it’s really up to him to decide,” Saiz told reporters on Wednesday. “Joseba has been acting a bit nervous in the past few days and showing some signs of lacking some confidence, which isn’t going to help matters. He will have to contact us if he decides.”
Liberty’s setup should include the likes of Vuelta a España sensation Isidro Nozal, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano – who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey in 2002 – and talented Australian Allan Davis.
Before deciding to pull out of sponsorship ONCE, the Spanish charitable society for the blind, had sponsored the team for the last 15 years – during which time the team claimed more than 400 victories including four Tours of Spain, two world time trial championships and many other stage race victories.
Copyright AFP2003Bianchi official confirms Ullrich wage veto
Bianchi manager Jacques Hanegraaf confirmed Thursday that the Italian team has stopped making salary payments to 2003 Tour de France runner-up Jan Ullrich.A report in Wednesday’s edition of the German daily Bildzeitung claimed that Bianchi had denied 29-year-old Ullrich around 600,000 euros in back payments since August after the German rider confirmed his switch to the Telekom team.”I can not confirm these figures,” Dutchman Hanegraaf told German news agency DPA. “However, it is true that we are not paying Ullrich at the moment.”Ullrich is contracted with Bianchi until December 31 but his Italian employers have halted salary payments after being incensed by the conduct of the rider in signing a lucrative contract with T-Mobile.”It is a shame that it has come to this,” explained Hanegraaf. “But Jan did not conduct himself properly in signing for T-Mobile in the middle of the season.”Ullrich’s representatives have refused to comment on the situation but a legal battle could ensue should Bianchi continue with their stance and Ullrich refuse to accept the loss in his wages.Ullrich won the Tour de France in 1997 with Telekom and has finished as runner-up in the race a total of five times, four of those during his earlier nine-year stay with Telekom.