Beloki heading back to Saiz?
After failing to make much of a mark with Brioches La Boulangere and Saunier Duval, Joseba Beloki ma
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Joseba Beloki is in the process of negotiating his departure from the Saunier Duval team he only joined back in August with the apparent goal of rejoining his former boss, Manolo Saiz, at Liberty Seguros. Since crashing out of the Tour de France in 2003 when riding the Tour for Saiz’s ONCE team, Beloki has struggled to regain the form that saw him finish on the Tour podium three times. “I want to be released from my contract on Monday,” Beloki told AS over the weekend. “I know that I will have to pay a contract rescission fee and that I will lose some money. But I still don’t know what my next team will be.” According to reports in both France and Spain, that team is almost certain to be Liberty Seguros. Negotiations between Beloki’s representative, Pablo Arregui, and the Spanish team are reported to be well advanced. Beloki, though, refused to confirm or deny the links, telling AS that he wanted to sort out matters with Saunier Duval before thinking about his next destination. Contacted by the Spanish press over the weekend, Saiz also refused to confirm the stories of Beloki’s heavily rumoured move to his team. “Of course he is an interesting rider, I am not going to deny that. And that’s not only because we have a strong personal relationship, but also because as an athlete Joseba still has plenty of cards to play,” said Saiz, who wanted to keep his then team leader at the end of last season but was unable to provide a salary to match a million euro offer from the French Brioches La Boulangre team. Beloki and Brioches agreed to go their separate ways in June after a dispute about the asthma product Pulmicort, which Brioches refused to allow the Basque to use. Although he is refusing to comment on any possible deal with Beloki until the rider becomes a free agent, Saiz did deny that there would be any problem in fitting Beloki into a team already containing Vuelta champion Roberto Heras. “I don’t see why they would be incompatible, quite the opposite,” said Saiz. “The more good riders you have the better. Problems arise when some cyclists start to believe what the press say and think they are better than they really are.” The likelihood of a deal being done was only underlined by comments made by Saunier directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez, who told El Diario Vasco he didn’t want to have “a rider who is not happy” on his team. With Beloki apparently set to leave, Saunier Duval have confirmed the signing of veteran sprinter Angel Edo, who has spent the last five seasons with the Portuguese Milaneza team. Young Costa de Almeria-Paternina rider Jos Angel Gomez Marchante is also on the move, having agreed to sign for Phonak for the next two seasons. The two teams agreed on a compensation payment to Costa de Almeria for Gomez, who finished eighth in this year’s Vuelta.