Rumors have been flying for months that the Spanish Kelme squad is aboutto implode, a la Mercury-Viatel. The longest standing Spanish teamis months behind paying riders, including top star Oscar Sevillawho is reportedly being wooed by Germany’s Telekom team.
The Spanish dailies were buzzing with reports that Telekom — anxiousfor a replacement for fallen star Jan Ullrich — is trying to convince Sevilla to swap his lime-green Kelme jersey for a pink Telekom kit comeJuly.
Ullrich announced last week he will not start the 2002 Tour de France and Sevilla, Spain’s hottest prospect, is in reportedly in Telekom’s sights.Last year, “El Nino” finished seventh in his Tour debut, winning the bestyoung rider’s jersey before finishing second overall at the 2001 Vueltaa España.
Sevilla is signed with Kelme through the end of 2003, but is owed areported $250,000 in back wages. His escape clause, however, is worth morethan $1 million, but Telekom might be tempted to make it worth for Sevillato march to greener pastures. Kelme team manager Joan Mas denied the rumors.
“There have been no contacts with Telekom. We have good relations withthe German team and they have not been in touch. Even without Ullrich,they still have great riders,” he told the Spanish sports daily MARCA.“There’s a lot of speculation. I can’t tell you what Sevilla is doing after2003, but until then he’s ours.”
Kelme has been in the pro peloton 20 years, the longest of any currentsponsor. Sponsored by the maker of Spanish tennis shoes, the team has losttop stars before, including Fernando Escartin, who left for TeamCoast, and Roberto Heras, who endured an acrimonious split withthe team after winning the 2000 Vuelta to join U.S. Postal Service.
Team patron Jose Quiles says the team is working out its financial difficulties and added that Sevilla is staying with the team through his contract. “Oscar Sevilla has a contract until the end of next year and beyond this, we are negotiating with him to extend it,” Quiles told the Spanish wires. “We are behind in payments, but they are not to the extent that is reported. This week everything will be fine.”Bayarri Wins NarancoSpeaking of Sevilla, the Kelme rider was focused on the business athand and finished third in the Subida al Naranco, a one-day climbing racein northern Spain on Tuesday.Gonzalo Bayarri (Jazztel) beat Vuelta al Pais Vasco winner Aitor Osa by 3 seconds while Sevilla came across the line 11 seconds back.
Most of Spain’s top stars were on hand for the one-day race that was movedfrom October to May, just one day before the Vuelta a Asturias which starts Wednesday.Under the useless trivia category, the Naranco summit finish above Oviedowas the last complete stage five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain ever completed. Indurain, who reluctantly started the 1996 Vuelta a España, finished at Naranco that year but abandoned the next stage to Lagos deCovadonga and never raced the bike again as a pro.
Oviedo to Alto de Naranco, 161 km1. Gonzalo Bayarri (Sp), Jazztel, 3:53:56
2. Aitor Osa (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 0:03
3. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), Kelme, at 0:11
4. Vladimir Kanpets (Rus), Itera, s.t.
5. Massimiliano Gentili (I), Acqua&Sapone, at 0:14
6. Leonardo Bertognolli (I), Saeco, at 0:18
7. Rubén Lobato (I), Acqua &Sapone, at 0:20
8. Felix García Casas (Sp), Big Mat, s.t.
9. David Krupa, CCC, s.t.
10. Mikel Zarrabeitia (Sp), Once-Eroski, s.t.
New MTB Speed Record
Flying Frenchman Eric Barone broke his own mountain bike speedrecord Sunday, not to mention his $60,000 bike and some skin along theway. Descending down a 400-meter prepared track on the Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua, Barone hit 163 kph on his first attempt, easily beatinghis Nov.4, 2001 record of 130.43 kph.
He previously set the speed record of 118 kph in Hawaii in 1999. Ona second attempt, Barone hit 172 km/h when his bicycle dramatically shatteredinto two pieces and the 42-year-old Frenchman cart-wheeled down the blackvolcanic sand and was knocked unconscious during the dramatic crash (sure to make gnarly crash videos next year).
Incredibly, Barone only sufferedan injured left shoulder and cuts and bruises to his face, mouth and ears.
Sounds like lots of fun, no?