By Andrew Hood
American climbing phenom Tom Danielson has signed a two-year contract with the Italian Fassa Bortolo squad, the 24-year-old announced Tuesday.
“I just signed officially and I am over here with the team right now,” Danielson wrote in a brief email to VeloNews.
Danielson made the trip to Italy last week alongside his coach Rick Crawford and legal advisor (and VeloNews columnist) Bob Mionske to undergo discussions with Fassa’s boss Giancarlo Ferretti.
Danielson’s remarkable rise — from struggling mountain bike pro at the beginning of 2002 to Mount Washington record holder later that year to winner of the Tour de Langkawi with Saturn this past February — has had many calling him a future American challenger at the Tour de France.
Danielson has credited Crawford, his former collegiate cycling coach, for much of his success, and it is expected Crawford will continue to work closely with Danielson in Europe.
While rumors abound over the likely departure of Fassa’s Michele Bartoli, Danielson will ride with some of the European peloton’s biggest names, including 2002 Vuelta winner Aitor Gonzalez and this year’s top grand tour sprinter, Alessandro Petacchi.
Longer ITT for Vuelta
Race organizers for the upcoming Vuelta a España have lengthened the first individual time trial from 37.2km to 43.8km, a move that should please such riders as Aitor Gonzalez and Angel Casero.
The time trial comes at Stage 6 on the highways around Zaragoza, a region renowned for its blustery conditions. The course is dead flat on an out-and-back course.
This year’s Vuelta once again is laden with time trials. The race opens with a team time trial and features three more individual time trials. In addition to the Zaragoza test, there’s another largely flat 53km course in Albacete in Stage 13 and a short but steep climbing 12km time trial in the Vuelta’s penultimate stage.
Changing time trial distances is nothing new to the Vuelta. Last year, Casero was enraged when he arrived at the race as defending champion to find the first major time trial had actually been shortened by nearly 10km due to logistical problems.
More contract extensions: Sanchez with Euskatel; Brochard with Ag2r
Samuel Sanchez has signed a contract to stay with Euskaltel-Euskadi for the 2004 season, the team announced Tuesday. Sanchez and the team have been negotiating a contract extension for the past several weeks. Euskaltel has already signed Tour revelation Haimar Zubeldia to a contract extension and are close to signing Alpe d’Huez winner Iban Mayo as well, according to reports in the Spanish press.
In France, former world champion and 2003 Criterium International winner Laurent Brochard has extended with Ag2r for next season.
Pecharromán butting heads with Paternina boss
Relations between José Antonio Pecharromán and Paternina sport director Miguel Moreno are souring to the point that Moreno is threatening to keep the Spanish revelation out of next month’s Vuelta a España.
Tension has been growing since Pecharromán – winner at Bicicleta Vasca and Tour of Cataluyna – signed a deal to join Quick Step reportedly worth 1.1 million euros for two years. Pecharromán had said publicly that he would stay with the modest Division II squad if the team could come up with an offer equal to Quick Step’s.
Paternina officials had been talking with Rabobank about a deal that would send Pecharromán and Jose Antonio Garrido to Rabobank. Moreno told the Spanish sports daily AS he upset that he wasn’t told in advance that Pecharromán had already agreed to a deal with the Belgian team.
“We at Paternina cannot pay them what they are worth now,” Moreno told AS. “What made me mad was when I found out he had already signed with Quick Step without telling me or the Dutch team.”
Moreno denied that he has threatened to keep Pecharromán out of the Vuelta, despite the early exit of Spain’s newest star in last weekend’s Clasico de los Puertos. Pecharromán says he’s recovering from knee problems and hopes to “fight for the overall title at the Vuelta.”