By Andrew Hood
Spanish veteran Fernando Escartin announced his retirement in a press conference Tuesday in Zaragoza.
Escartin, 34, had an offer on the table from his current team Coast but decided to walk away after 13 years as a professional.
“It wasn’t easy to make the decision, but I miss my family more and more and it’s harder to put in the sacrifice necessary to stay on top,” he said.
Escartin turned pro in 1990 and while he wasn’t a grand champion, he was consistently at the top of the standings and always in the hunt for stage-wins in the mountains. He twice finished second in the Vuelta a España (1997, 1998) and finished third in the 1999 Tour de France. Escartin said his career highlight was the stage victory high in the Pyrenees at Piau-Engaly in the 1999 Tour. Escartin suffered since then and raced 2000-2002 without winning a race. He was forced to pull out of the 2002 Vuelta after crashing in the 14th stage.
Gonzalez signs on the dotted line
The Spanish press are reporting that 2002 Vuelta a España champion Aitor Gonzalez will sign a contract with Fassa Bortolo on Tuesday afternoon. Gonzalez narrowed his choice down to Fassa after insisting that he would be the only team leader after a reported six squads came looking for his services.
Gonzalez was the surprise winner of the Vuelta and will sign for a reported $750,000 per year in a two-year deal. A strong time trialist and solid climber, Gonzalez has the characteristics for three-week grand tours. The Italian team, however, thinks Gonzalez should hold off on the Tour de France. Fassa Bortolo wants Gonzalez to focus on the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta, and keep the Tour plans on ice until 2004.
Jazztel future in doubt
The modest Jazztel-Costa Almeria’s future could be in doubt. According to the Spanish daily AS, none of the team’s 14 riders have been re-signed for the 2003 season, including Spanish champion Juan Carlos Guillamon.
The Spanish team is having trouble signing on a co-sponsor for next year, throwing the future of the team into question. Paternina stepped up during the Vuelta, but the Spanish company seems to have lost interest for next year.
Millar tests on track
British star David Millar put in some time on the Manchester track last week with the British Cycling Federation. According to Millar’s web page, the Cofidis rider had only ridden an hour on the track before last week’s visit.
Millar met with BCF’s Peter Keen and David Brailsford to discuss future testing in hopes to improve Millar’s time trialing abilities for the 2003 world championships and 2004 Olympic Games.
“I loved it. It’s been a good experience,” Millar said. “It’s a good track here in Manchester, the best in the world. Plus I was on one of the best bikes, so it has been fantastic.”