Shorts: Beloki, TDU, Faresin
Liberty Seguros reach a verbal agreement with Beloki, Rogers returns to Tour Down Under with Pozzato
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE There was one main topic of conversation for Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz at Wednesday night’s Spanish cycling journalism awards ceremony in Madrid, and that was the likelihood of three-time Tour podium finisher Joseba Beloki joining the team next season. After refusing to say much beyond describing Beloki as “a very interesting rider” in recent days, Saiz confirmed that he was “very close” to completing a deal for the Basque, who bought his way out of his Saunier Duval contract earlier this week. “Beloki is very near to joining our team, but there are still some issues remaining to be resolved. He wants to come and we are interested in him. I hope that the deal with all be sorted out by the end of this week,” said Saiz. Another guest at the awards ceremony was current Liberty team leader Roberto Heras, who denied he was put out by the prospective arrival of the rider who led the team before him. “There will be no rivalry between us. It will be good to have two leaders,” said Vuelta winner Heras. “Manolo Saiz is a director who demands discipline and respect, so there won’t be any problems. He has signed good riders for the team who will bring key strengths. With Beloki we will be a bit stronger than we were this year.” Liberty have said that there is already a verbal agreement for Beloki to join the team next season. – World time trial champion Michael Rogers will lead the Quick Step team in the Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under in January. Rogers, the 2002 TDU race winner, missed this year’s event but will return in 2005 with a strong team including new signing and Tour de France stage winner Filippo Pozzato. Crdit Agricole’s line-up will include triple Olympic medallist Bradley Wiggins and four-time Tour de France stage winner Jaan Kirsipuu, as well as their new signing from Quick Step, Laszlo Bodrogi. 2003 TDU winner Mikel Astarloza heads the Ag2r team, which also includes Australian rider Simon Gerrans, who was offered a contract by the French team after impressing during a stint as a stagiaire. – Gianni Faresin, probably the oldest rider in the pro peloton, is bowing out of the sport after 17 seasons, latterly with the German Gerolsteiner team. Winner of the Tour of Lombardy in 1995, Faresin also won the Italian road title in 1997 and was a major tour best sixth at the Giro the following season. The ever-dependable Faresin rode 21 major tours during a career that started way back in 1988, finishing no less than 19 of them.