Beloki gets his Liberty

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 12.00am
Joseba Beloki has bought his way out of his contract with Saunier Duval and has all but issued a 'co
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Joseba Beloki's likely passage to the Liberty Seguros team has been cleared by his release from his contract with Saunier Duval. The release was sealed on Monday night when Beloki's representative, Pablo Arregi, signed an agreement with Saunier team manager Mauro Gianetti to annul the final year of the Basque rider's contract. Arregi admitted that Beloki had paid a rescission clause to get out of the contract but said that the amount involved was not excessive. Beloki only joined the Saunier Duval team in August this year, a few weeks after agreeing to leave the Brioches La Boulangre team by mutual consent. Arregi also admitted that he had spoken briefly on the phone to Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz about Beloki's situation. Beloki, of course, spent three seasons with Saiz at ONCE. Arregi did not deny that Liberty is the 31-year-old Basque rider's most likely destination, saying: "That option has the most possibilities because Joseba has a lot of friends there. His relationship with Manolo is marvellous, and he feels at home there." Speaking to Marca, Beloki said that his reason for leaving Saunier was simply a matter of making the very most of the time he has left as a pro. "I can't hide the fact that I would like to be with the people I was with two years ago, because I've got very good friends there. But before thinking of that I've got to sort out a deal with Manolo," said Beloki, who finished second and third at the Tour during his three seasons with Saiz at ONCE. "I don't know what it is about Manolo, but I obtained my best results with him and all that I know as a cyclist I learned from him. He also improved me as a cyclist, in time trials for example." Beloki added that the differences of opinion that surfaced when he opted to take Brioches' big money offer rather than commit to Saiz at the end of the 2003 season have been resolved. He also denied that his lack of form since leaving ONCE were the result of the horrific injuries that he suffered in his infamous crash on the Tour stage into Gap in 2003. "I've got through exhaustive medical tests in France and Spain since then," he said. Beloki added that he hoped a "change of scenery" could enable him to finish on the Tour podium once again. "My dream is to ride the Tour again and to do so with the aim of winning it. If I do win it I would really like Lance Armstrong to have been there, although if I was to win I wouldn't really care who came second." Beloki's departure from Saunier will be mirrored by the departure of his younger brother, Gorka, who had also followed him from ONCE to Brioches. Any new deal for Beloki senior would almost certainly include a place for Gorka. Beloki has steadfastly refused to make any criticism of the Saunier team management, but he was widely reported to be unhappy with directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez Matxin during the Vuelta in September. All he would say in an interview with Meta2Mil was that "it hurts me when Matxin says that they have given me everything and I have given them nothing. I hope he realises that my presence in the team helped towards them getting into the Pro Tour."

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