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By Andrew Hood
What would be the inaugural edition of the Vuelta a España femenina is back in the starting gates and already has its date on the UCI calendar (April 29 to May 9), but the race could be sidelined for a second year if efforts to secure a television contract fail.
Plans last year to offer a women’s Vuelta were scuttled when a title sponsor couldn’t be lined up to cover the costs of a major stage race. Negotiations to ensure television coverage on Spain’s national channel are on ice and are again threatening the race, according to reports on the Spanish wires.
The race is tentatively scheduled to run with 15 teams of eight racers taking on nine stages, including stops in Malaga, Valencia, Murcia and Granada in southern Spain. The proposed budget is 720,000 euros.
Promoters said they remain confident they can pull together a deal in time to save the race.
Quick Step concludes early camp with high hopes
The Quick Step-Davitamon squad has wrapped up its pre-season camp in Cecina, Italy, hometown of Paolo Bettini. The team’s top stars were on hand for the six-day get-together, including Bettini, Johan Museeuw and Richard Virenque, while new riders, including Juan Miguel Mercado, Jose Antonio Pecharroman and Laurent Dufaux, got to meet their new teammates.
Aussie star Michael Rogers is back home for his summer break while Sven Vanthourenhout was busy racing cyclo-cross, the team reported on its web page.
“It’s an international team,” Pecharroman said. “We speak Flemish, French and Italian. We are all trying to learn Italian. It’s beautiful to train with riders like Bettini and Museeuw. For me they are the examples to follow. I hope to learn a lot from them and to give some beautiful satisfaction to the team.”
Dufaux, a part of the infamous 1998 Festina squad, is now back with his old teammate Virenque.
“Our careers went separate ways for a few years, but we are now together again,” Dufaux said. “My principal objective is to help Richard in the mountain stages of the Tour, when he will try to conquer his seventh pois jersey. I would, of course, like to win some races for the team, too. The most important thing is to train well and to be ready when the team needs me.”
The riders left Monday for home for Christmas and will reconvene in Tuscany in January.
“Last year, Tuscany brought us good fortune,” Bettini said. “Why change something when it works?”
VDB to debut in Fassa colors in Qatar
Frank Vandenbroucke will make his Fassa Bortolo debut in February’s Tour of Qatar.
After a scandal- and trouble-plagued tenure at Quick Step, Vandenbroucke hopes to rediscover his winning ways with Fassa Bortolo. The often-volatile Belgian says that his season’s focus will be to be in top form come time for the spring classics.