Liberty Seguros's hopes of signing Sergio Paulinho might come to nothing after come-and-get-me pleaPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Second place in the Olympic road race after a couple of stage wins a week before that in the Tour of Portugal have helped raise Portuguese rider Sergio Paulinho's stock considerably. Just 24 and with a bronze medal in the 2002 world under-23 time trial championship to his credit, Paulinho was being heavily linked with a move to Liberty Seguros next season, but his own preference is to join compatriot Jos Azevedo at Discovery Channel. Liberty, who were one of the backers of the Tour of Portugal, are looking for riders to expand their roster for next season's Pro Tour, and were perhaps expecting to pick up some from Portugal on the cheap. As well as Paulinho, they are also said to be interested in his LA Pecol team-mate Nuno Ribeiro. The only slight sticking point to any potential deal is that both riders are already under contract to LA Pecol for next season. Of course, there is always a way around these problems, but Liberty might find that Paulinho's price has now gone up well beyond what they were hoping to pay for him. Paulinho voicing a desire to join up with Azevedo, a rider rejected by Liberty boss at the end of last season, probably wasn't part of Liberty's plan either. The new Portuguese cycling star returned home today, and told the waiting press that he wanted to ride "with Jos Azevedo and the American Lance Armstrong. I am going to look over the offers I have had and see what is the best for me. "It's my dream to ride for a foreign team and to take part in the Tour de France. Now that I have this opportunity I'm not going to let it pass." * The Spanish second division team Cafs Baqu have signed four riders for the Vuelta a Espa¤a, which starts on September 4. The quartet are Spaniards Curro Garcia and David Plaza, who have joined from the Portuguese Antarte team, and Colombians Ivan Parra (CV-Kelme) and Herberth Gutierrez (Orbitel 05). The Cafs Baqu team will be led by the 2003 Vuelta's King of the Mountains, Felix Cardenas, who has had a pin inserted into a broken bone in his forearm so that he can start this year's race.