By Andrew Hood
American star Tom Danielson could be leaving Fassa Bortolo and joining up with six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong at Discovery Channel in 2005.
Sources at Fassa Bortolo confirmed Danielson has opted out of the second year of his two-year contract with the Italian team and is expected to join the American team for next season.
Danielson is the top American hope in a new generation of riders coming through the ranks and made the jump to Europe in 2004 with a high-profile contract with Fassa Bortolo. Danielson was frustrated, however, when he was left off both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España teams.
Armstrong hinted the team is looking to sign one more big-name rider for 2005. The team has already signed 2002 Giro champion Paolo Savoldelli and rising star Yaroslav Popovych, who Belgian national coach called the “signing of the year.”
“We’re working on one more guy,” Armstrong said in an interview this week with The Oregonian. “It’ll be a big coup, I can tell you that.”
Danielson came close to joining Armstrong at U.S. Postal Service two years ago, but opted for Saturn instead. The former mountain biker went on to win the Tour of Langkawi in 2003, a victory that brought attention from several European teams.
Ullrich for worlds
Jan Ullrich will line up for the world road championships later this month in Verona. The two-time world time trial champion says he wants another rainbow jersey to make up for what’s been a disappointing 2004 campaign.
“I am ready for the worlds. My performances in recent races in Italy have shown me that I am in good form. That, for me, was the decisive factor,” said Ullrich. “I feel strong and want to give it my best shot. After that, I will take a holiday.”
Ullrich has good memories of racing in Verona. He won the time trial event there in 1999 and finished seventh in the road race on an almost identical course.
Beloki: ‘I’ll be back’
Joseba Beloki unceremoniously pulled out of the Vuelta a España in Tuesday’s flat stage to Cáceres in what’s likely his last major race of his troubled 2004 season.
The three-time Tour de France podium man said he just didn’t have the strength to carry on, but promised it’s not the last the cycling world will see of him.
“I would have liked to arrived to Madrid, but I just didn’t have the rhythm in my legs to carry on,” Beloki said. “I haven’t been able to race a long competition this season, so it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.”
Beloki struggled throughout the 2004 season to recover from his dramatic spill in last year’s Tour de France, when he broke his elbow, wrist and leg during a mountain stage to Gap.
Beloki signed a lucrative contract with French team Brioches La Boulangère, but left the team in June after disagreements over medications and the obvious fact that he wasn’t going to be in condition to race the Tour.
He signed for the remainder of the 2004 season with Spanish team Saunier Duval, but his future is still in doubt. Beloki told VeloNews this week he’s still shopping for a team for next season.
“I don’t think this is the end for me. The most important thing in this Vuelta is that I have good sensations on the bike, that I have overcome my injuries and it doesn’t hurt to ride,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of regaining the fitness to race at the top level. I’ll be back to the Beloki the cycling world knew before.”
Honchar, Botero won’t ride worlds
Two former world time trial champions — Serhiy Honchar and Santiago Botero – won’t be lining up next week for the road world cycling championships.
2000 world time trial champion Honchar is suffering from knee pain and has been ordered by De Nardi team doctors to take a 20-day rest. Botero, the 2002 champion, still hasn’t recovered from his health problems that forced his early departure from the Vuelta a España and won’t be lining up for the Colombian team.