Saiz and Belda fall out over Valverde

A bitter war of words has broken out between CV-Kelme boss Vicente Belda and Liberty's Manolo Saiz o

A bitter war of words has broken out between CV-Kelme boss Vicente Belda and Liberty's Manolo Saiz o
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE CV-Kelme team manager Vicente Belda and his counterpart at Liberty Seguros Manolo Saiz are two of the most forthright personalities in the sport, a pair who can always be depended to give direct and often controversial insight into matters affecting cycling. Much in demand for quotes about the Pro Tour and the future of Alejandro Valverde in recent weeks, the pair have now levelled their sights on each other. The catalyst for a rancorous fall-out was a Spanish radio interview Belda gave in which he slated Saiz for, in Belda's opinion, blatantly 'tapping up' Valverde after Wednesday's Vuelta stage into Morella. "It was shameful to see Saiz speaking with Alejandro Valverde. I know that he is trying to sign our rider and it seems that he's not wasted much time in trying to do so again after hearing that we might not get into the Pro Tour next season," exclaimed Belda, adding: "It doesn't seem ethical to me to speak to a rider in front of witnesses, but it seems that Manolo feels he can throw his weight around after being one of the men behind the Pro Tour." Sensing a good story, the Spanish press were quick to enquire about what Saiz thought of Belda's comments. Typically, the Cantabrian did not disappoint, telling AS: "The person who has showed a lack of ethics for several years is Vicente Belda, who is a liar on a personal and a sporting level. I simply found myself next to Valverde in a hotel caf and simply asked him how the stage had gone. I spoke to him for about a minute. I also chatted to other Kelme riders. This is what you would call education, which is something that some people lack." But Saiz was not finished there. He admitted he is interested in signing Valverde, saying: "It's public knowledge that there are many teams that would be interested in having a great rider like Alejandro in their ranks. But it's absurd to think that I am stupid enough to try to sign him in a public place and in front of a host of witnesses. I also don't think that negotiations with Valverde would be so simple that they could be concluded in just one minute." A CV-Kelme source told AS that even if the team does not gain entry into the Pro Tour there is little chance of them allowing Valverde, who is contracted with them until 2007, to leave. The team's hope is that if Valverde wins either the Vuelta or the world title in the next few weeks then they will receive one of the four places that the major tour organisers can offer to non-Pro Tour outfits in order to guarantee Valverde appearing. Even though Valverde may not be happy with this situation, the only way out of it would be for any potential new team to fulfil the two million euro rescission clause in his contract. In a separate interview with Spanish paper Marca, Belda underlined his contempt for the Pro Tour concept, saying: "(UCI president Hein) Verbruggen and Saiz defend the Pro Tour to death even though 90 per cent of people in cycling are against it. The Pro Tour is going to finish cycling and in a year's time it might be too late to take a step back." Meanwhile, the man at the centre of the dispute, Valverde, is trying to get on with the business of winning the Vuelta. "I don't know what is going to happen in the future, but for now I am here at the Vuelta and I want to concentrate on that and not say anything about all this other stuff," Valverde commented.
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