By Andrew Hood
Now Mayo might fly
While he doesn’t have any official offers on the table, the rumor mill is churning in Spain that star rider Iban Mayo could leave his longtime home at Euskaltel-Euskadi.
Earlier this week, Liberty Seguros team boss Manolo Saiz said he was “very interested” in signing Mayo, just days after Illes Balears won the bidding war to snag hot property Alejandro Valverde in a three-year contract.
Euskatel-Euskadi team manager Miguel Madariaga shot down rumors that Mayo is on the offering block: “Iban has a contract until 2006 and he has a buy out clause. We had just spoken about the upcoming season and he knows he’s going to be the only team leader for the Tour, then we hear these rumors.”
Mayo is reportedly unhappy that the orange-clad Basques let David Etxebarria be signed away by another team and couldn’t sign Pedro Horrillo, yet instead signed 2002 Vuelta a España champion Aitor González.
“Right now, nothing’s changed,” Mayo told Europa Press. “We don’t have any news that another team is interested and we’re staying calm and preparing for the upcoming year. If there were offers, we’d listen to them. If there are other teams ready to negotiate, we would wait to see what happens. Nothing happens if you just listen.”
Mayo’s buy-out clause, worth a reported 900,000 euros, might scare away most suitors.
Another Pantani monument planned
Yet another monument in honor of Marco Pantani will be inaugurated this weekend in Italy. Selvapiana di Bagno di Romagna, a town in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy, will boast a monument some 5 feet high made of stone.
The sculpture is set to be in a plaza near a fountain where Pantani would rest when he would go to the region for training sessions. Pantani, a winner of the 1998 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, died in February after collapsing in a hotel in Rimini.
Two of ‘San Remo 12’ ask for plea bargain
Two riders among the 12 people being charged under Italian anti-doping laws relating to the San Remo raids during the 2001 Giro asked for a plea bargain in Italian court Wednesday.
Domenico Romano and Ermanno Brignoli, two of 10 racers and two soigneurs facing charges, asked a judge for a reduced sentence in a hearing in San Remo. The next hearing won’t be until Feb. 4 as the slow hand of Italian justice works its way through the system.
Lawyers for the two riders asked for reduced sentencing in exchange for guilty pleas. Romano is facing six months in jail and a 400-euro fine while Brignoli is looking at two months in jail and a 200 euro fine. Nearly all Italian sentences less than two years are not served in jail, but rather through social work.
The other eight riders — Daniele De Paoli, Giuseppe Di Grande, Alberto Elli, Giuliano Figueras, Dario Frigo, Giampaolo Mondini, Pavel Padrnos and Stefano Zanini – along with soigneurs Primo Pregnolato and Javier Francisco Fernández were represented by their respective attorneys.
Among the products discovered by police in hotel raids were banned insulin injections, human growth hormones, corticoids and diuretics. The riders and soigneurs face charges under the Italian anti-doping law adopted in 2000.
Planckaert will challenge ban
Belgian racer Jo Planckaert, who was handed a two-year racing ban earlier this month by the Belgian cycling federation, will challenge the ruling before the Court of Arbitration in Sport, according to the Belgian news services.
“I know an appeal will be very expensive, because they have to translate everything into French and English, but I want to clear my name of the charges,” said Planckaert, who rode in the 2004 season for Mr.Bookmaker-Palmans.
Planckaert was banned along with Chris Peers and retired superstar Johan Museeuw for allegedly trafficking in doping substances. The case dates back to police investigations into a Belgian veterinarian who was allegedly peddling doping products to professional cyclists. Despite blood and urine samples coming back negative, the authorities pushed ahead with the subsequent bans of the riders.
Peers has decided to retire and not challenge the ruling. There has been no word from Museeuw.
Copycats target LiveStrong bands
Charities and causes of all stripes are rushing to cash in on the popularity of the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s yellow wristband.
A rainbow of wristbands are now being sold to promote awareness of everything from breast cancer to high medical malpractice premiums for doctors.
The trendy silicone rubber bracelet produced by the cycling superstar’s cancer-fighting organization is imprinted with the motto “Live Strong.” This week, the foundation will announce that it has sold 20 million wristbands at $1 each, theAustin American-Statesman reported today. Proceeds go toward programs for young people with cancer.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids in Washington is one group hoping to play off the foundation’s success.
The group has created a red wristband imprinted with its Web site and “1200,” the number of Americans who die each day from smoking-related illnesses, spokesman Vince Willmore said.
In southern Illinois, doctors worried about the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance have given away 100,000 neon green wristbands saying “Keep Doctors in Illinois” in a little more than a month.
Lynne Nowak, a doctor in Belleville, Illinois, said she got the idea after noticing how many non-athletes were wearing the Armstrong foundation’s yellow wristband. Nowak said her design has caught on among local high school students.
“It astonishes me that it’s a big fashion statement to wear this obnoxious green wristband,” she said.
University of Texas marketing professor Julie Irwin said she doesn’t expect to see much success among the spin-offs.
“Once we all start wearing bracelets of different colors signifying different causes, the fashion will fade,” she said. “Ideas work because of their potency and originality, and you can’t really borrow that sort of inspiration.”
But the Armstrong Foundation doesn’t worry about similar wristbands, as long as they don’t try to use the trademarked “Live Strong” slogan, executive director Mitchell Stoller said.
The craze “only reinforces our message,” he said. –The Associated Press