Transfer market rumours increase

The transfer rumour mill is grinding at almost full capacity, as riders look to secure deals that wi

The transfer rumour mill is grinding at almost full capacity, as riders look to secure deals that wi
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE It has been barely a week since the end of the Tour de France, but that race's reputation as a negotiating forum is having its usual effect by stoking up rumours of transfers for next season. The introduction of the Pro Tour next season is only adding to the number of rumours circulating, as riders at all levels attempt to secure contracts with teams that will have guaranteed access to the biggest events in 2005. Belgian sprinter Tom Steels is being linked with a move from Landbouwkrediet to Omega-Lotto for precisely this season. Steels, affected by illness in recent seasons, has rediscovered his best form with Landbouwkrediet but would like to take part in next season's Tour, meaning a move onwards is almost certain. Steels' former boss at Mapei-Quick Step, Patrick Lfvere, is taking an interest in Rabobank's Marc Lotz, who has been angling for a move away from the Dutch team. Quick Step have admitted that negotiations are ongoing and that a two-year deal has been offered, but denied anything had been signed yet. Rabobank are talking with team leader Levi Leipheimer about his future. Ninth at the Tour de France last month and one of the very few riders who tried to attack Lance Armstrong in the mountains, Leipheimer is also being linked with Armstrong's new backer, the Discovery Channel. The new American outfit is also reported to be negotiating with Ukrainian stage race star Yaroslav Popovych, who finished fifth at this year's Giro and third at last year's. Stefano Garzelli, who finished a place behind Popovych at this year's Giro and a place ahead of him at last year's, is being linked with a move to Liquigas, who are returning as a main sponsor to the sport after four seasons away. They have already signed the Giro's fourth-placed finisher, Dario Cioni, from Fassa Bortolo. Finally, the Dutch city of Eindhoven has presented its candidature for hosting the team time trial event that is scheduled for the Pro Tour on June 19 next year. The TTT is believed to about 60 kilometres in length.

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