By Andrew Hood
Just three days after winning the Vuelta a España, Aitor Gonzalez is getting some heat from his Kelme sport director Vicente Belda. Gonzalez is likely to leave Kelme at the end of this season and, considering the fallout from his controversial Vuelta victory, he likely won’t be leaving many friends behind.
Belda, speaking to the Spanish sports daily MARCA, called Gonzalez “undisciplined” and criticized him for celebrating his Vuelta victory with Miguel Antonio Martin Perdiuguero, the Acqua & Sapone rider who helped U.S. Postal’s Roberto Heras at La Covatilla.
“What do his teammates think, when he celebrates his victory with this traitor? If he continues like this, he won’t have many friends left in the peloton.”
Belda will lose his second Vuelta a España champion in three years. After winning the 2000 Vuelta, Heras broke his contract with Kelme to sign a four-year deal with the Posties. Gonzalez’ contract is up at the end of this season, but Belda says it’s Gonzalez who wants to leave because he’d like to have him back at Kelme next year.
“We’d like to have riders of his quality, but without the disciplinary problems,” said Belda, adding that conflicts with the team date back to last year at the Vuelta a Asturias, Bicicleta Vasca and the Tour de France. “He hasn’t thanked anyone on the team. He doesn’t have to thank me, but not the others and then I see him celebrating with Perdiguero. It pains me. I sacrificed Oscar Sevilla at La Covatilla to help him and that probably cost Sevilla the podium for the time he lost there.”
Botero confirms worlds
Santiago Botero struggled through the 2002 Vuelta a España, but finished strong enough to commit to competing in the upcoming road world championships.
Botero, third last year in the individual time trial, said he was undecided about the worlds because his form was so poor during the Vuelta. Botero, who rides with the Spanish Kelme team, rebounded to win a stage in the Vuelta’s final week and has decided to race in both the road race and the individual time trial.
Victor Hugo Pena, who crashed during the Vuelta’s 14th stage and was kicked out of the race for supposedly taking an illegal tow up the treacherous Angliru stage the next day, is also penciled in to race in the time trial and the road race. Also joining the pair on the Colombian team are Hernan Buenahora and Felix Cardenas, both with Cage Maglierie, Mauricio Adrila (Marlux) and Jairo Perez.
Dekker pulls out of world’s
Rabobank’s Erik Dekker has pulled out of the upcoming world road cycling championships, Holland’s ANP news agency reported Wednesday. The 2001 World Cup champion blamed the decision to miss the October 13 event in Zolder, Belgium on his fitness – or lack of it. “My energy’s gone,” he complained. “There won’t be a Paris-Tours race, nor the world championships this year. “This has been a black year,” said Dekker, who has struggled to recapture his form after taking a heavy spill during Milan-San Remo back in the spring which left him nursing a fractured hip. The 32-year-old leader of the Rabobank team is due to receive surgery in the next few weeks before going on an extended vacation. If 2002 can be filed under forgettable; Dekker has happier memories of 2001 when he won a stage in the Tour de France before emerging triumphant in the World Cup.
Vuelta stars to race at Montjuic
Top riders fresh off the Vuelta will start the one-day Montjuic climbing race Oct. 20 near Barcelona. Vuelta winner Aitor Gonzalez, third-place Joseba Beloki, 2001 Vuelta champion Angel Casero and Kelme’s Oscar Sevilla will be at the 39th edition of the race in Spain’s Cataluyna region.
The race will pay homage to Melchor Mauri, the 1991 Vuelta champion who is retiring at the end of this season.