Euskaltel look to football for help, T-Mobile get another Spaniard, three veterans retire, and ClercPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE A season that promised so much for the Basque Euskaltel team has turned into what team manager Miguel Madariaga has admitted to being the hardest since he moved the outfit into the pro ranks back in 1994. The failure of the team's riders to win a stage or even compete for a high overall finish at both the Tour and Vuelta was compounded by the sacking of team doctor Jesus Losa after he was implicated in the David Millar affair. In addition, two of the team's riders were forced to 'rest' after producing elevated red blood cell counts just before the Tour de France. In the search for a remedy to his team's problems, Madariaga has been in touch with the Atletic Bilbao football club to ask for help on training methods. Perhaps not coincidentally, Atletic's team doctor is Sabino Padilla, who made his name working with Miguel Indurain during the early 1990s. Euskaltel's hope is to improve their riders' race preparation, particularly during the winter months. Atletic and Padilla are considering the proposal. * Francisco Lara, who finished 14th in the Vuelta for Costa de Almeria last month, has signed with T-Mobile for the 2005 season. The 27-year-old Spaniard from Granada rode for the German Coast team in 2002 and 2003. * Chris Peers and Jo Planckaert have announced that they won't be appealing against the two-year suspensions they were handed by the Belgian federation last week, and will be retiring from the sport. Peers, 34, and Planckaert, 33, have said that an appeal against their bans to the Court for Arbitration in Sport would be too lengthy at this point in their careers, hence their immediate retirements. * Panaria veteran Paolo Lanfranchi has announced his retirement. The 36-year-old Italian turned pro in 1993 and rode for six teams, including Mercatone Uno and Mapei. A good climber who finished nine teams in the top 20 of major tours, but never in the top 10, Lanfranchi is perhaps best remembered as the rider who chased down an attack by Italian team-mate Gilberto Simoni at the Worlds in 2001. He later claimed he didn't know Simoni had attacked on the penultimate lap of the race, which was won by Lanfranchi's Mapei team-mate Oscar Freire. * Patrice Clerc, head of Tour de France organisers ASO, has insisted that the differences that exist between the organiser of the three major tours and the International Cycling Union are not just semantic, as claimed by UCI president Hein Verbruggen. Speaking over the weekend, Clerc said: "The differences between us are not just semantic, and it's important that everyone understands that. We don't agree with the project and nor do the organisers of the Giro, Tour nor Vuelta." Clerc continued: "The split between the UCI and ASO is very wide. Our lawyers and their lawyers are working to create a bridge between us, but the differences at the moment are enormous."