Balears eyeing French recruits

With French company Caisse d'Epargne set to take over from Illes Balears as José-Miguel Echavarri's

With French company Caisse d'Epargne set to take over from Illes Balears as José-Miguel Echavarri's

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The Illes Balears team is apparently planning a major reshuffle to coincide with Caisse d'Epargne taking over as Spanish-based outfit's main sponsor in 2006.

According to Spanish sources, team manager Jos-Miguel Echavarri will embark on a major shopping spree in the coming weeks but could lose Tour de France star Francisco Mancebo. Following a breakdown in communications with Echavarri, Mancebo has apparently asked his agent, the former rider, David Plaza, to tout his services to other ProTour teams. Reports in
L'Equipe, suggest that Quick Step-Innergetic view the 29-year-old Mancebo as the solution to their lack of firepower in major tours, but the Belgian team's manager, Patrick Lefevere, denied this on Sunday morning. Lefevere said that his sights are set on another Spanish three-week specialist, Juan Manuel Garate. Lefevere is confident of finalising the details of Garate's move from Saunier Duval in the coming days. Echavarri's recruitment strategy, meanwhile, will reflect Caisse d'Epargne's need for exposure in France, where the company is based. It is believed that Echavarri has received orders to sign no fewer than five French riders for the 2006 season. One of these looks highly likely to be Crdit Agricole cast-off Christophe Moreau. Phonak, however, have also expressed their interest in a cut-price deal for the Frenchman.

Echavarri considers another out-of-contract Crdit Agricole rider, Andrei Kashechkin, as a more suitable replacement for Mancebo, but will be hoping that Crdit Agricole fail in their bid to sign Alexandre Vinokourov. Kashechkin has said that it is his "dream" to ride with his Kazakh compatriot and would almost certainly sign a contract extension if CA landed Vinokourov. On Saturday, however, Echevarri was intrigued to find out that Kashechkin had still not resolved his future as the Illes Balears boss made enquiries with the 25-year-old's entourage.

Gilberto Simoni is another man who could be caught up in the traffic flowing in and out of the CA swing door. According to sources close to the rider, CA now hold the advantage over Domina Vacanze in the bidding war for the Lampre rider.

- One rider certain to be joining Quick Step is Fassa Bortolo's Mauro Tosatto, who adds speed and experience to Tom Boonen's lead-out team. Another Fassa rider confirmed as moving is Fabian Cancellara, who has signed a three-year deal with CSC.

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