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Domina Vacanze chief Gianluigi Stanga on Tuesday denied having made claims that he was "99 per cent certain" of signing out-of-contract sprint ace Alessandro Petacchi. Speaking to procycling in Grenoble on Tuesday morning, Stanga said that he had been misquoted by Italian newspaper Tuttosport and that he was still a long way from securing Petacchi's services.
Stanga did, though, acknowledge that he had met Petacchi's agent, Alex Carrera, on the Tour's first rest day on Monday. "At this stage, we are talking in fairly general terms," Stanga explained. "We are looking for several riders to strengthen our team for next season and Alessandro wants to keep several of his current team with him. But I don't think that Carrera came all the way to speak to me alone. I think that pretty much every team in the Tour would be interested in signing Alessandro."
Sources close to procycling concur with Stanga's last comments, but now cite T-Mobile as the clear favourites to land Petacchi. Negotiations between Carrera and the German team are apparently well advanced.
In other transfer news, Colombia-Selle Italia magnate Gianni Savio has revealed to procycling that he has appealed to the UCI and Assocation of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP) to halt the race to prise away his Venezuelan climber Jos Rujano.
The 23-year-old Rujano has established himself not only as one cycling's most exciting talents but also one of the hottest properties on the transfer market thanks to his third-place finish at this year's Giro d'Italia. Rujano may be contracted to Savio until the end of 2006, but this hasn't stopped the rider's entourage, perhaps more than Rujano himself, seeking to cash in on his new-found stardom, said Savio this morning.
"He has an agent whose name I don't even know, but who has been touting him to all of the ProTour teams. This is illegal under ProTour and AIGCP rules, and all of the ProTour teams will receive a letter reminding them of this, if they haven't already. It's OK for a rider to talk to other teams if he is in the last year of his contract, but not before. This agent keeps telling me that we'll lose Rujano but it's all in his head."
Savio is one of several Italian teams gunning for the ProTour licence which could become vacant if Giancarlo Ferretti fails to find a replacement sponsor for Fassa Bortolo, which seems increasingly likely. Savio himself is busy negotiating with what he describes as a large "multinational" to increase his team's budget to at least five million euros and therefore strengthen his case for a ProTour licence. He will attend a further meeting with the mystery company's directors on Wednesday with a view to securing their backing in good time to present a ProTour application before the October deadline.
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