By Andrew Hood
According to reports in Italy, Mario Cipollini is close to a deal to join Cofidis. The 2002 world champion is considering the offer to join the French team following two lackluster seasons with Domina Vacanze, according to a report in Tuttosport.
There seems to be plenty of problems at Domina Vacanze, which will ride on next season as part of the Pro Tour after joining forces with De Nardi, but team management has accused the team sponsor of not paying wages since mid-summer.
Cipollini, meanwhile, might like a change of colors. Since winning the rainbow jersey at the end of the 2002 season, the Lion King has struggled to maintain his winning form. The 37-year-old Tuscan pulled out of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France this year with injury.
Valverde cleared for Illes Balears
There are more reports coming out of Spain that Alejandro Valverde has already signed a three-year deal to join Illes Balears. The Spanish sports daily MARCA reported that high-level talks cleared the way for the rising star to leave troubled Valenciana-Kelme to join the Spanish squad led by José Miguel Echávarri and Eusebio Unzúe.
The deal also calls for Valverde’s confidantes Cayetano Juliá and José Luis Martínez to leave Kelme to be alongside as well as Valverde’s preferred helper. An official announcement could come as soon as Friday.
No Andorra detour for Tour
The official 2005 Tour de France route won’t be disclosed until next Thursday, but officials from Andorra are already saying the race won’t be entering the small nation sandwiched between France and Spain in the Pyrénées.
The last time the Tour entered Andorra was in 1997, when Jan Ullrich stormed to victory in a stage at Arcalis. Despite strong lobbying by Andorran officials, the Tour evidently said no thanks.
New rules for world’s participation
The UCI has clarified its changes to rules regarding participation in the road world championships set to take effect in 2005. Following criticism that such teams as Spain and Italy, which raced in Verona with 13 riders each, held an unfair numeric advantage, the UCI has lowered the number of riders allowed per nation.
According to the new rules, the top 10 nations classified in the Pro Tour rankings will be allowed nine riders each. From there, it’s a sliding scale based on placements in the respective continental tours, also part of the UCI’s reorganization of the cycling calendar.
The top 16 nations in the Europa Tour will get six riders for the top six teams while the following 10 teams will be allowed three riders each. The top five in the America Tour will be allowed six for the two top teams and three each for the other three. Three nations will qualify in the Asia Tour, with the top team receiving six riders and three for other team. The first nation in the Oceania Tour will be allowed three riders. Finally, in Africa, six riders will be selected from the top-ranked team with three for the second. CSC signs young Danish talent
Young Danish talent Matti Breschel has signed a two-year contract to join Team CSC in the coming season, according to the team. “I have chosen Team CSC because I am convinced this is the right place for me to develop as a professional bike rider,” Breschel said. “I have already been at the team’s training camps and since then I have known that this was the team for me. I know how the team is run and that everything is very professional and well-organized.”
For Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis, the signing continues his penchant to help develop young Danish talent. Such riders as Michael Rasmussen, Thomas Bruun Eriksen and Brian Vandborg have gotten their starts under the tutelage of the 1996 Tour de France winner.
“I am pleased that we succeeded in signing Matti, who we are looking very much forward to start working with as he is extremely talented and has a huge potential,” Riis said. “I am sure Matti will develop enormously as a rider at our team. With us, he will get a schedule that suits him perfectly.”