The latest transfer gossip and innuendo involving the much-wanted Valverde, the disapointing Botero
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE The International Cycling Union (UCI) is due to announce the final candidates for next season’s Pro Tour this coming Wednesday, and their decision on which teams do and don’t make the cut is bound to have a significant impact on the transfer market in the coming weeks. Among those teams who could well miss out are CV-Kelme, and such an outcome will almost certainly lead to a huge bun fight for the signature of Alejandro Valverde. No less than 10 teams are reported to be enquiring about the availability of the Murcian rider, who has made it clear he won’t countenance a second season competing for a second division team despite his current contract binding him to CV-Kelme until 2007. Naturally, said contract contains a rescission clause and most of the Spanish and major Italian teams as well as Rabobank, Quick Step and CSC are rumoured to be considering the two million euros that would help Valverde out of his current deal. One team that has been interested in the Spaniard but is now less so is Phonak, although the Swiss team does seem to be signing almost everyone else available. As well as a much-reported link-up with Floyd Landis, Phonak are also tying up deals with T-Mobile’s Santiago Botero, Postal’s Victor Hugo Pe¤a and Fassa Bortolo’s Tour de France prologue winner Fabian Cancellara. All three offer serious time trialling potential, although the signing of 2002 world time trial champion Botero is slightly surprising as the Colombian had been talking of retirement in recent months after two very poor seasons with T-Mobile. However, he is apparently motivated by the chance to join up with his former boss at Kelme, Alvaro Pino, and will ride for another year at least. Davide Rebellin is another rider on the move, although his is a fair more dramatic switch of country rather than just team. Disappointed by his non-selection for the Italian team for the Olympics, the Gerolsteiner team and current World Cup leader is on the verge of taking on Argentinian nationality in order to ensure his presence in the world road championship in Verona on October 3. According to Argentine minister of sport Claudio Morresi, “his naturalisation can only help to promote cycling in our country.” Rebellin himself has said he has received positive feedback from the UCI on his proposed move and expects to receive an Argentine passport in the coming days. “I’ve have chosen to ride the Worlds in Argentine colours because the Italian team does not respect me,” said Rebellin, who told La Gazzetta dello Sport he had been promised a place at the Olympics by Italian selector Franco Ballerini. Rebellin has no family connection with Argentina, but is said to be a good friend of Argentine team manager Mirko Rosatto. In the wake of an Olympics where Kenyans ran for Qatar and a very lowly ranked American 400-metre runner famously recalled his mother’s British nationality and subsequently ended up wearing a GB skinsuit in Athens, Rebellin’s connection will surely stand up to scrutiny.