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Tuesday’s EuroFile: Phonak rebuilds with Hamilton; Where’s Marco?; Teams readying for Vuelta

The big news of Tyler Hamilton's transfer to the Swiss Phonak team has made headlines throughout Europe. Hamilton enjoyed a banner year, winning Liége-Bastogne-Liége, the Tour of Romandie and a stage in the Tour de France while riding with a fractured collar bone. The New Englander officially announced Monday a two-year deal to join the Phonak team, which has yet to race in the Tour. Team officials were upbeat about their chances to earn a place in the 2004 Tour. "Over the past two years our strategy has been in keeping with the marketing strategy of the sponsor: young, international, but

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By Andrew Hood

The big news of Tyler Hamilton’s transfer to the Swiss Phonak team has made headlines throughout Europe. Hamilton enjoyed a banner year, winning Liége-Bastogne-Liége, the Tour of Romandie and a stage in the Tour de France while riding with a fractured collar bone.

The New Englander officially announced Monday a two-year deal to join the Phonak team, which has yet to race in the Tour. Team officials were upbeat about their chances to earn a place in the 2004 Tour.

“Over the past two years our strategy has been in keeping with the marketing strategy of the sponsor: young, international, but no stars,” sport director Urs Freuler told the German wires.

“We are really pleased that it worked out with Hamilton. Naturally, he will be the team leader for the Tour and co-leader along with (Oscar) Camenzind for the classics,” Freuler said.

In addition to Hamilton, the team has signed promising sprinter Daniele Bennati from Domina Vacanze and two Slovenian riders — Uros Murn from the Italian Pinzolo team and Tadej Valjavec form Fassa Bortolo. Two-time Tour runner-up Alex Zulle has hinted he might retire at the end of this year while Carmenzind is expected to stay with the Swiss team.

The team has decided not to extend the contracts of Stefan Kupfernagel, Benoit Salmon, Massimer Strazzer and Olympic mountain bike champion Miguel Martinez.

Pantani suspended
Marco Pantani is at a crossroads in his career. The Tour/Giro winner of 1998 has been suspended by Mercatone Uno, Holland’s Het Nieuwsblad reported Monday.

“Well, for one thing, we do not even know where Marco is right now, so he really isn’t of much use to the team,” a team spokesman said.

Since his 1999 ejection from the Giro d’Italia for an elevated hematocrit level, Pantani has seen his once-promising career spiral downwards. The 33-year-old Pantani has had to face a litany of legal issues related to doping charges. Pantani faces another court hearing this week in Tione, Italy, on new doping charges.

The legal battles have taken an emotional toll on the 33-year-old Pantani. After what some called a heroic performance at this year’s Giro, Pantani checked himself into a psychiatric hospital for treatment of depression. He has, since his release from the facility, kept a low profile and has not raced.

Ullrich to stick with Bianchi if price is right, recounts bout with contaminated supplement
Jan Ullrich said he wants to stay with Bianchi if the team can come up with a budget large enough to buy the team he needs to support him in the 2004 Tour de France.

“I gave up a lot of money to save the team this year, but I cannot do that again this year,” Ullrich told German television. “I’ve had a lot of offers from other teams. I’d like to stay with Bianchi but that depends on the budget.”

Ullrich, 29, is done for the 2003 season after racing Sunday in Germany and won’t race in October’s world championships. Ullrich, a runner-up to Lance Armstrong in July’s Tour, is determined to knock the Texan off his pedestal next year and wants a stronger team.

Ullrich vows to begin working in November in a build up for next year’s Tour, when Armstrong will hunting for a record sixth title. Ullrich, a winner in 1997, has finished fourth five times and wants desperately to win cycling’s marquee race once again.

Ullrich also recounted his bout with a fever in the first week of the Tour, when he says he drank a contaminated protien supplement that made him instantly sick and gave him a high fever.

“Immediately after taking this protein tea, I had a very high fever, nearly 40 degrees (Celsius),” he said during an appearance on a German chat show.

He said the bad supplement weakened him for four days just before entering the Alps, including the decisive stage up Alpe d’Huez, and tried to disguise his symptoms so the rest of the peloton wouldn’t know he was sick.

Ullrich said he takes the supplement to maintain his 8000 calorie per day requirements during the Tour.

Transfer news: Jaksche, Sastre with CSC; Di Luca with Saeco and Moreni with Alessio
Big changes at Team CSC continue with the news the Danish team has penned a two-year deal with German rider Jorg Jaksche and re-signed Tour de France stage-winner Carlos Sastre to a one-year contract extension. Jaksche had verbally committed to Gerolsteiner, but balked at the deal when CSC came calling. Sastre, meanwhile, will join new addition Ivan Basso as the team’s leader for the grand tours. … Christian Moreni, a recent winner at the Tour of Varese, extended his contract for one year with Alessio. Moreni, 30, will be racing in the Vuelta a España. … Saeco has also extended with Danilo Di Luca for one year. Di Luca was the center of speculation that he might be joining CSC or Rabobank, but will stay with the Italian team.

No worlds for Vino
Telekom’s Alexandre Vinokourov announced he won’t be starting October’s world championships. The Kazakh has had a long and impressive season, winning Paris-Nice in honor of his fallen comrade Andrei Kivilev, Amstel Gold and the Tour of Switzerland before winning a stage at the Tour de France and finishing third overall.

Along with Lance Armstrong’s and Jan Ullrich’s announcement they won’t be racing in the world’s, none of the Tour’s podium finishers will be in Canada to battle it out for the rainbow jersey.

Teams taking shape for Vuelta
More teams are finalizing for Saturday’s departure of the 2003 Vuelta a España, Sept. 6-28. Here are a few of the teams that have announced their final line-ups for the season’s final grand tour:

Team Telekom
Australian Cadel Evans will be looking for a strong ride to make up for an injury-plagued season while German sprinting ace Erik Zabel will be looking for stage wins: Mario Aerts (B), Cadel Evans (Aus), Torsten Hiekmann (G), Bobby Julich (USA), Jan Schaffrath (G), Stephan Schreck (G), Christian Werner (G), Steffen Wesemann (G) and Erik Zabel (G).

Kelme
Team captain Oscar Sevilla will be hoping for the best after missing most of the season with complications from a cyst. The team will also be looking to make up for a disappointing Tour: Sevilla, Francisco Cabello, Toni Tauler, Alejandro Valverde, David Latasa, Tino Zaballa, Carlos Garcia Quesada, ‘Quique Gutierrez and Jesus Maria Manzano (all Spanish).

Euskaltel
Big names Haimar Zubeldia and Iban Mayo are skipping the Vuelta, much to the chagrin of critics. Roberto Laiseka will be the man for the mountains while Alberto Martinez will be the team’s GC man: Laiseka, Martinez, Unai Etxebarria (Ven), David Etxebarria, Inaki Isasi, Gorka Gerrikagoitia, Gorka Gonzalez, Iker Flores and Gorka Arrizabalaga (all Spanish).

Lampre
The Italian team comes with Wladimir Belli and Juan Manuel Garate come as the team’s GC men as Francesco Casagrande won’t be starting. Mariano Piccoli and Jan Svorada will be hunting for stage-wins: Belli; Simone Bertoletti; Rubens Bertogliati; Alessandro Cortinovis; Garate (Sp); Piccoli; Daniele Righi; Svorada (Cze) and Patxi Vila (Sp).

Bernabeu banned for one year
Spanish rider David Bernabeu was suspended for one year by the Spanish cycling federation for his positive test for coiticoids in Paris-Nice back in March. The Milaneza-MSS rider, who won the final stage, will not be able to race until July 27, according to the Spanish daily AS. Milaneza’s Francisco Perez also failed a doping test for the Portuguese, testing positive for EPO in the Tour of Romandie in May. That case has yet to be finalized.

Latest UCI rankings
1. Paolo Bettini (I) 2353 points
2. Erik Zabel (G) 1973
3. Gilberto Simoni (I) 1955
4. Davide Rebellin (I) 1771
5. Alessandro Petacchi (I) 1764
6. Iban Mayo (Sp) 1735
7. Alexandre Vinokourov (KZK) 1728
8. Lance Armstrong (USA) 1542
9. Francesco Casagrande (I) 1476
10. Robbie McEwen (Aus) 1394
11. Tyler Hamilton (USA) 1363
12. Jan Ullrich (G) 1258
13. Danilo Di Luca (I) 1224
14. Aitor Gonzalez (Sp) 1199
15. Michael Boogerd (Nl) 1160
16. Dario Frigo (I) 1145
17. Michele Bartoli (I) 1109
18. Mario Cipollini (I) 1103
19. Roberto Heras (Sp) 1085
20. Laurent Brochard (F) 1049
21. Baden Cooke (Aus) 1039
22. Stefano Garzelli (I) 1011
23. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) 988
24. Joseba Beloki (Sp) 902
25. Ivan Basso (I) 886
Team standings
1. Fassa Bortolo (I) 7180 points
2. Saeco (I) 6833
3. Quick Step (B) 6750
4. Telekom (G) 6530
5. Gerolsteiner (G) 5115
6. Rabobank (Nl) 4833
7. ibanesto.com (Sp) 4733
8. CSC (Dk) 4607
9. U.S. Postal (USA) 4373
10. Euskaltel (Sp) 4351