Balears court Mayo and ValverdeClose
Stymied by CV-Kelme's demands for two million euros in exchange for Alejandro Valverde, Illes BalearPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Paco Mancebo may just have recorded his best ever finish in a major tour by taking third place in the Vuelta, but his Illes Balears team seem determined to bring in another major name as a leader for the sport's most important stage races. Up to now their focus has been on CV-Kelme's Alejandro Valverde, but, according to today's edition of Marca, they are also interested in Euskaltel's Iban Mayo, who flopped so disastrously at the Tour this summer. All indications are that Illes Balears would prefer to see Valverde replace the Rabobank-destined Denis Menchov as co-team leader with Mancebo. But like so many others before them, Illes Balears are baulking at paying the two million euro fee to get Valverde out of his current contract, and have realised they can get Mayo out of his contract for less than half that amount - a mere 900,000 euros. Several sources suggest that Illes Balears have reached an initial agreement with Valverde, but are refusing to stump up the two million euros CV-Kelme are demanding. Marca even suggests that a reduction of the fee to 1.5 million is still not an option for Illes Balears, who could still get Mayo for 600,000 less. There has been tension between Mayo and his Euskaltel team ever since the Basque climber quit the Tour when already way off the pace and was then ordered to prepare for the Vuelta. Mayo reluctantly prepared for the event, but pulled out before the start after glandular fever was diagnosed. Signing Mayo looks an even more attractive proposition for Illes Balears when the cost of Valverde's buy-out fee is added to the 1.5 million euro combined salary that would have to be paid to the Murcian and his two key domestiques, Jos Cayetano Julia and Jos Luis Martinez. CV-Kelme'a management are still negotiating with Illes Balears over Valverde, but have also been talking to Saunier Duval, who claim they can afford the rider and his two sidekicks if they can reach agreement with the two Murcian co-sponsors they are negotiating with. Saunier boss Joxean Fernandez Matxin told Marca the main issue to be resolved there is one of how big each company's logo is on next season's jersey and where they are placed. Mayo's possible departure from Euskaltel is more likely to happen now that the Basque team have entered into final negotiations with 2002 Vuelta winner Aitor Gonzalez, whose family hails from the Basque Country. Euskaltel boss Miguel Madariaga has confirmed talks with Gonzalez are ongoing and will be finalised one way or the other by the end of next week. Madariaga's current plan is to have Gonzalez as leader at the Giro, Mayo at the Tour, and Haimar Zubeldia at the Vuelta. Meanwhile, Liberty Seguros have confirmed the signing of under-23 riders Koen de Koert from Holland and Aaron Kemps from Australia.