By Neal Rogers
Although he signed with the domestic Health Net squad just six weeks ago, 26-year-old David Clinger is now rumored to be in negotiations with Mario Cipollini’s Domina Vacanze squad for the 2004 season.
Health Net team management would neither confirm nor deny the rumor.
“We can’t completely comment on that,” said Thierry Attias, President and COO of Momentum Sports Group, the organization that owns and runs the Health Net cycling team. “I’d say it’s half true. We have a completely valid and enforced contract with David. He does now have an opportunity to ride with Cipollini, and we’ve been in communication with Domina Vacanze. We’re still working with David. Beyond that, we don’t comment on rider contracts.”
Should Clinger sign with Domina Vacanze and ride with the 2002 world champion, it wouldn’t be the first time the talented American has lined up with Europe’s top stars. The Californian rode for Mercury in 1998 and 1999 before serving a two-year stint with the French Festina squad in 2000-01.
In 2000 Clinger was the sole American at the Vuelta a España, where he finished 71st, and in 2001 he won the 165km Prueba Villafranca ahead of riders such as Juan Miguel Mercado and Manuel Beltrán. He had a disappointing 2002 season with U.S. Postal that ended in knee surgery before signing a one-year deal with Prime Alliance last year.
Attias added that if Clinger does sign with the Italian squad, Health Net may add another rider to replace him. “The team is pretty chock full, but if Clinger moves on, there may be other openings,” Attias said. “Even without Clinger we’re fourteen riders deep, which is still a pretty good sized squad.”
Other first-tier riders without contracts for 2004 include Clinger’s former Prime Alliance teammate Danny Pate, who is rumored to be close to rejoining his former teammate Chris Horner at Webcor; another former Prime Alliance rider, Michael Creed, who has been rumored to be in negotiations with U.S. Postal Service; and 2002 San Francisco Grand Prix winner Charles Dionne, who spent 2003 at Saturn.