Astarloa weighs up three options

In 2003, Igor Astarloa won the world title and had a host of big money offers. Little more than a ye

In 2003, Igor Astarloa won the world title and had a host of big money offers. Little more than a ye
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Few riders in recent seasons can have felt the so called 'curse of the rainbow jersey' as strongly as 2003 world road champion Igor Astarloa, who is mulling over his options for the coming season. None of them seem likely to guarantee him competition in the top level ProTour events. Already in the midst of legal action against the Lampre-Caffita team as a result of the contract he signed with them last season apparently not being honoured to the end of next season as was agreed, Astarloa is also weighing up a trio of offers from the Italo-South African Barloworld team, from his personal sponsor Valsir and, according to the Italian press, from former Carrera team manager Davide Boifava. Of the three, the first looks to be the most likely to pan out given the lack of time available to Valsir and Boifava to put together the framework for a new team before the start of the 2005 season. Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that Barloworld and Astarloa's personal backer Valsir have reached an agreement that would take the Italian-based Basque into the team that will be led by Francesco Casagrande. That scenario is also likely to result in former Gewiss team boss Emanuele Bombini, with whom Astarloa also has an agreement, joining Barloworld's management. While Astarloa's lawyer, Paolo Zanni, advises the Spaniard on the best way forward on the competitive front, he is also continuing to press the International Cycling Union on the case against Lampre-Caffita. The Italian ProTour team that came about from the recent fusion of Lampre and Saeco have offered Astarloa a deal for next season, but not on the same money that was agreed when he joined Lampre from Cofidis during last spring. Zanni has written to the UCI's Alain Rumpf asking why Lampre-Caffita were given a ProTour licence when the team was not assuming responsibility for a contract with Astarloa that ran through to the end of the 2005 season.

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