By Andrew Hood
Estonian Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) won the 178km third stage of the 17th Tour de Poitou-Charentes in a sprint finish Thursday. Ukraine Yuri Mitlushenko (Landbouwkrediet) remains the overall leader.
Cipo’ still undecided on Vuelta
World champion Mario Cipollini’s disappearing act will be decided by this weekend when he’s expected to meet with Domina Vacanze patron Ernesto Preatoni, according to reports in the Italian press.
Cipollini – who hasn’t raced since crashing out of the Giro d’Italia after setting a new stage-win record — said he will decide whether he’ll start September’s Vuelta a España.
Cipollini might skip the Vuelta to prepare for October’s world championships, which he’s confirmed he’d like to start as a gesture of solidarity with his Italian teammates who helped deliver him into the rainbow jersey last year in Zolder. He has already acknowledged that the hilly Hamilton route will not favor his talents.
Despite early season boasts of a banner year in the world champion’s jersey, Cipollini’s season has been anything but stellar. Save for two stage-wins in Tirreno-Adriatico and breaking Alfredo Binda’s mark at the Giro, Cipollini has been this season’s nowhere man.
He hasn’t raced since pulling out of the Giro and was stung after the Tour de France snub. Sources close to the team said Cipollini’s return “is the million dollar question.” Cipollini was a no-show at the New York City race although he promised sponsors he’d be there.
Now his talk of skipping the Vuelta could put his Domina Vacanze’s presence in the season’s final grand tour in the balance. Domina Vacanze was invited as a “wild card” team with the assumption of the world champion’s presence.
There’s good news for fans of the Lion King, however. Cipollini has announced he won’t retire until the end of the 2004 season.
‘DuDu’ without team
French favorite Jacky “DuDu” Durand could be on the way out after Fdjeux.com team boss Marc Madiot said the former Tour of Flanders champ won’t be back with the team next year.
Durand, 35, is famous for the do-or-die attacks that sometimes hold out for big wins. Durand’s fans were let down when he missed the Tour de France after fracturing a bone in leg in a spill during the Dauphiné Libéré. Durand came back at last week’s Tour of Holland, but won’t be back with the French team next year, L’Equipe reported.
Voigt signs with CSC
German racer Jens Voigt has penned a deal with Tyler Hamilton’s Team CSC, according to AFP on Thursday.
Voigt, 31, a winner of a Tour stage in 2001 (Sarran), won the team time trial the same year with his Credit Agricole team, also powered by Americans Bobby Julich and Jonathan Vaughters.
Voigt was forced to abandon this year’s Tour with intestinal problems.
Zubeldia Sanchez deals finalized
our revelation Haimar Zubeldia finalized a deal Thursday to race with Euskaltel-Euskadi through the 2006 season on an annual salary reportedly worth 480,000 euros. The team is also poised to sign rising star Samuel Sanchez at 280,000 euros per season, according to reports in the Spanish sports daily AS.
The Basque team is also poised to sign Alpe d’Huez winner Iban Mayo to a similar three-year deal, giving the team a solid foundation as it looks to become a Tour force to reckon with.