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In the past week, rumours about Alejandro Valverde moving to T-Mobile made headlines. But according to T-Mobile sports director Rolf Aldag, the team never received a response to the offer they made the Spaniard last month. Talking to Procycling at the team's training camp on Mallorca, Aldag confirmed that T-Mobile put an offer to Valverde that not only included an obvious financial attraction, it also featured the full T-Mobile package.
This would involve the training systems and all the support the team is able to provide, the possibility to ride the races of his choosing, and a complete commitment to the teams new anti doping measures. "The last contact I had was five weeks ago," Aldag said. "We made him an offer and that's were we left it. We have an interest in him like in many other good riders, but we expect to hear something back. The first thing we heard was from the media reporting that he signed. That was a little bit strange."
With most of the big Tour contenders gone from this year's team Aldag admits that signing the Spanish hot shot would have been an easy solution, but also an investment in the team's many young riders.
"Valverde is a world class rider and with his abilities he would fit in really well on the team, because he's able to finish on the podium in big stage races. At the moment our team has a lot of young riders and (with Valverde) we would be able to take a lot of pressure off them if we had someone who brings the results. Valverde would be our option to have quick success, but it would also be a protection of our young riders. It's just good to have someone who's used to that pressure, and riders like Valverde are."
Only this time it was no cigar for the restructured German team. Valverde, meanwhile, is expected to decide on his future within three days. Caisse d'Epargne is currently negotiating with him to shore up his existing contract, which runs through until the end of the year. Their problem is that co-sponsor Illes Balears is pulling out in May, meaning that a team with a big chequebook could conceivably buy out Valverde before his time is up.
Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has announced his retirement. The 37 year-old has not raced since breaking his right knee in stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia last year. He underwent surgery, but the joint did not recover well enough to return to professional racing. Laiseka was born in Gernika in 1969, and turned pro with Euskaltel in 1994. He was the last of the original members still in the squad.
A pure climber, his victories have come rarely but always in big races. He won three stages of the Vuelta a Espa¤a (1999, 2000, 2005), a stage in the Tour de France (2001) and a stage in the Euskal Bizikleta (2004). In addition to that, he has been a valuable member of the team, taking part in hundreds of public events in the last few years, and being a reference for the other team members.
Laiseka expressed his disappointment at having to leave the sport. "I would have liked to have done well this year, but my leg doesn't work," he said to Todociclismo. "I can bend the knee but to throw the leg over the bike is impossible. It's sad to stop racing like this because I would have liked to have left in front of the fans." Euskaltel's team manager Miguel Madariaga said that in future, Laiseka could work as part of their proposed professional continental team.
Keisse and Bartko win in Rotterdam
Belgian Iljo Keisse and his German partner Robert Bartko have taken the final honours in the Six Days of Rotterdam, which concluded in the Dutch city on Tuesday evening. The pair finished on 388 points, well ahead of Dutch/Italian combo Danny Stam/Marco Villa (330 pts), with Swiss Bruno Risi/Franco Marvulli a lap down on 387 points.
Cyclo-cross Worlds teams
This year's cyclo-cross worlds will be in Hooglede-Gits in Belgium over the weekend of January 27th-28th. Following the national championships last weekend, several countries have confirmed their men's line-ups for the main event on the 'cross calendar.
Home team Belgium will be the one to beat, of course, with a massive 10 man squad: Sven Nys (Rabobank), Bart Wellens (Fidea), 2006 world champ Erwin Vervecken (Fidea), Bart Aernouts (Rabobank), Davy Commeyne (Palmans), Kevin Pauwels (Fidea), Klaas Vantornout (Fidea), Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb), and Jan Verstraeten (Sunweb) and David Willemsens (Sunweb). The reserves are Jan Soetens and Tim Van Nuffel (Jartazi).
The Netherlands will send six riders, with the experienced Richard Groenendaal (Rabobank), Gerben de Knegt (Rabobank), Thijs Al (Bejan), Maarten Nijland (Ruiter Dakkapellen), Camiel Van den Bergh (Stevens Racing Team) and Wilant Van Gils (ZZPR).
France's best hope looks to be Francis Mourey (Franaise des Jeux), who was third in last year's world's. He will be supported by John Gadret (AG2R Prevoyance), David Derepas (Jartazi), Arnaud Labbe (Bouygues Telecom) and Steve Chainel (CC Etupes).
Switzerland has named a squad of four riders for the elite men's race. National champion Christian Heule (Stevens Racing Team) will lead Simon Zahner (Brgis Cycling Team), Lukas Flckiger (Bianchi Agos Liquigas) and Alexander Moos (BMC).
Finally, the USA will send six men to Belgium, led by national champion Ryan Trebon (Kona), Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com), Jonathan Page (Cervelo), Tristan Schouten (Trek-Volkswagen), Erik Tonkin (Kona) and Barry Wicks (Kona).
Luca Sabatino will turn pro with the Irish-registered Tenax Salmilano team. Sabatino hails from Magenta, near Milan, and will turn 24 this season. He has spent three years in the amateur ranks riding for G.S. Termoimpianti, and although he has no wins to his credit, he is a regular top 10 finisher.
Another 23 year-old, Michele Scotto D'Abusco, will make a form of comeback to racing with Ceramica Flaminia. He turned pro with Lampre in 2004, but was fired in June 2005 after returning a high haematocrit before the Dauphin Libr. He then signed for Ceramica Flaminia in 2006, but was suspended in April after Italian police found illegal drugs in his home. Flaminia has decided to take another chance with him. "We are offering him a big opportunity after the problems he had," said team manager Roberto Marrone.
"My colleagues and I are convinced that sport should not only offer the chance of personal success, but also important connections with real life, connections that give you the intellectual basis to properly mature. Because of this, I am convinced that Michele will show, to the world that has always loved him, that he is a nice guy. And we know he will also give us good performances in competition."
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