By Andrew Hood
Oscar Sevilla has finally had enough. After not being paid for more than two months, the 2001 Vuelta a Espana runner-up contacted the UCI on Monday asking for cycling’s governing body to step in. Kelme has been foundering since spring when its co-sponsor – the regional government of Alicante and its tourism arm Costa Blanca – has not paid its share of the sponsorship budget, leaving the team without cash to pay its riders. The UCI requires teams to deposit three months’ salary and if the UCIcalls up the deposits, which could spell the end of the team’s season,much like what happened last year with Mercury, after the Viatel debacle. Sevilla is reportedly owed more than $300,000 in back wages. The petition comes just as Kelme brass promised to resolve the problems this week. Jose Quiles, the Kelme director, met Monday with representatives from Alicante and the regional government of Valencia. They are expected to announce this week an extension of the co-sponsor contract for three more years. That all might be too late for Sevilla, who pulled out of the Criteriumde Dauphine Libere after falling hard on his right hip. He reportedly has offers on the table from Telekom and Phonak, among others.
Posties on a roll
Perhaps it’s time to start calling them the Big Blue Machine. Whatever you call them, U.S. Postal Service is on a roll. Lance Armstrong won his second major victory of the season Sunday, taking the overall at the Criterium de Dauphine Libere, including a dominant win on Saturday’s climbing stage. On Monday, the Posties took the 30-km team time trial opener of the Volta Ciclista de Catalunya and put Paris-Roubaix phenom Tom Boonen in the race lead. “It was a dead flat course with strong crosswinds the whole time,” said Dirk Demol, the USPS team’s assistant director sportif. “The team was good today, this was clear. George (Hincapie) was our leader today and perhaps our strongest rider but it was great to see that almost everyone was as strong. ”The team time trial victory was a good sign for the Posties, who will be going for a fourth consecutive victory in the Tour de France, starting July 6 in Luxembourg. The Tour of Cataluyna is an important race for Armstrong’s key helper Roberto Heras, who’s raced a quiet spring to slowly buildup for the Tour and later a run at the Vuelta a Espana. “For the overall, Roberto is very motivated and wants to have a top finish in the classification,” Demol said. “It’s good for him to already have gained some time on his rivals on a day in which it didn’t seem possible to make big gaps because the course was so flat. ”Two kilometers before the finish line, both David Clinger andMatt White fell off the pace and finished over one minute back. The time of the team in a team time trial is marked when the fifth place rider crosses the line. Following Boonen was Hincapie, Michael Barry, Roberto Heras, newly crowned U.S. Pro champion Chann McRae and Christian Vande Velde. “It’s great to see a young rider such as Tom leading a prestigious event like the Tour of Catalunya,” added Demol. “For the overall, Roberto is very motivated and wants to have a top finish in the classification. It’s good for him to already have gained some time on his rivals on a day in which it didn’t seem possible to make big gaps because the course was so flat. “Armstrong is coming off his dominating victory at the Dauphine Libere,his last race before the Tour starts next month. Armstrong won Saturday’s difficult climbing stage over Joux Plane – the same mountain where he had troubles in the 2000 Tour – to secure his second major victory of the season. Armstrong also won the Midi Libre in May. Floyd Landis, too, was impressive at the Dauphine, finishing second overall. With solid riding by Landis and others at both Dauphine Libere and Catalunya,it will make for a tough decision to name the final nine-man Tour de France team. Directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel said in May that he would wait until after the Catalunya race before making the final selection. He was pleased after the team’s strength at Dauphine Libere. Following his stage victory, Armstrong commented on the work done by his team. “My first impression is that the team was superb, maybe the best team I’ve had in the past three years,” he said, “It’s a great sign. “USPS team’s director sportif Johan Bruyneel agreed. “The most important thing I have seen has been the domination of the team,” Bruyneel said. “The team has just been amazing. We have been setting the pace on the flats and then controlling things in in the mountains. Through all of the climbs leading up to the Joux Plane,we still had six guys in the group out of something like 35. And(on Friday), basically for the whole stage, we pulled for 206 kilometers. From the start, we did it with four guys pulling – (Steffen) Kjaergaard,Benoit (Joachim), (Victor Hugo) Pena and Pavel (Padrnos). It was a great job.”It was the second time in the Dauphine Libere that the USPS team placed two riders on the final podium. In 2000, Tyler Hamilton and Armstrong finished first and third, respectively. In 2001, the team opted to compete in the Tour of Switzerland.
It’s strike season in Spain
Thursday’s tough climbing “queen’s stage” in the Tour of Catalunya might not happen at all, thanks to a national strike scheduled in Spain.Unions and other opponents to Spain’s conservative government have called for a national general strike in Spain and the Spanish racers agreed earlier this week to join the work stoppage. Also, Spain’s national television,TVE, announced it would not broadcast the race. Race officials met with the head of the Spanish cyclist union Monday to try to figure out some way to save the stage, a tough climbing stage with four rated climbs and the category-one summit finish to Pal. One idea is move the stage to nearby Andorra, an independent republic squeezed between France and Spain high in the Pyrenees.