The Fashion of Changing Teams
– Reported by Gazzetta Dello Sport –
MILANO, 26 November 2002 – Fassa Bortolo has already begun it’s first training camp less than 24 hours ago, today, Tuesday, so will Tacconi-Sport and Formaggi Trentini, and we are only speaking about the Italian teams. The world of cycling is beginning to prepare for next season, but there are still riders of the highest level who don’t know which team they will be riding for next year. Two names above all, Cipollini and Pantani: and if the first can count on the parachute of the incredible success that he’s had this season and the contract with Vincenzino Santoni, who is searching for a strong primary sponsor before announcing the formation for 2003, the second is navigating by sight alone without the horizon of a new team, Italian or foreign.
There are many voices that are revolving around Il Pirata, many of which want to see Pantani on the same team as Cipollini – thanks to a merger between Acqua&Sapone of Santoni and Mercatone Uno of Romano Cenni – who has most recently been courted by a foreign team, that of Telekom. The fact remains that the current world champion and possibly still one of the most popular Italian cyclist are caught in the middle of the problem plaguing professional cycling at the moment: the withdrawal of sponsorship due to the increasingly negative publicity given to cycling because of the ongoing doping problems.
Nearly a third of the riders in the UCI top 100 are changing teams next season. Other than Cipollini, who is ranked 5th, the Colombian Botero, number 15, who has broken ties with Kelme, but has not yet confirmed a deal with Telekom. Rumsas, number 40, is deciding between Lampre-Daikin, where he raced this season, and the Polish CCC-Polsat. Dufaux, 45, doesn’t know yet whether he will stay with Saeco or find a new contract with Jean Delatour. Good or great riders such as Piepoli – number 58 in the world ranking – Fontanelli – 71 – Tonkov – 81 – Michaelsen – 90 – are without any contract at all. There are also those who were forced to leave their present teams or left voluntarily: from Bettini (3), taken by Quick-Step with the demise of the Mapei squad, to Frigo and Aitor Gonzalez (numbers 6 and 7) who left respectively Tacconi and Kelme for Fassa Bortolo, to Casagrande (8) from Fassa to Lampre, to Museeuw (16) from Domo to Quick-Step, to Savoldelli (24) from Index Alexia to Telekom. And even more, among the best, Freire (26), Evans (31), and Bodrogi (36) have left Mapei for Rabobank, Telekom, and Quick Step. Two more riders, Laurent Jalabert (14) and Fernando Escartin (55) have decided to retire.