Tick's Blick, 06.01.2004
USPS, DVE, Kelme, Milaneza and Allessio must all have been bad little boys last year, Santa didn't bring them their GS-I licenses for Christmas. All kinds of excuses are flying around -- most of them along the lines of "paperwork problems", "nothing serious" and so on. What would happen if they don't get their licenses? Would it be possible for them only to get a GS-II license? For those teams with alleged financial difficulties, would it be better to be GS-II than GS-I? Would it help the riders get paid? For USPS at least, one must assume that they really do only have paperwork problems and the license will be issued in due course. It is sort of fun to speculate, though: Let's say USPS doesn't get a GS-I license, only GS-II. Could they still ride the Tour de France? Sure, the team of the previous year's winner has an automatic place, but what if that is a GS-II team? Hasn't Leblanc said he doesn't invite GS-II teams to the Tour? Wasn't that the reason he gave for not inviting Mercatone Uno and Pantani a couple of years ago?
And the buzzards are already starting to fly over what they apparently hope will be the Kelme carcass: If the team doesn't get a license at all, and has to fold, who will go where? Valverde? No problem (who has room for another leader on their team?) Angel Casero? It took him an awfully long time to finally get in with Kelme, what are his chances of finding something else now? Not to mention all the others on the team......Maybe people will look at Oscar Sevilla's decision to leave Kelme with different eyes now.
And good old Telekom -- oops! T-Mobile Team -- is apparently going to open the season with only 7 riders. That's all the UCI has listed on their website. (Isn't 18 the minimum?) One must ask how they expect to win the Tour de France -- or much of anything else -- with only Aldag, Evans, Hiekmann, Klier, Schreck, Werner and Wesemann, it could be a long hard year for those seven guys.
Just in case things are confusing enough, Joseba Beloki admits he is not real sure how he ended up leaving Manny Saiz and Liberty Seguros. Things were going well but "other people influenced the relationship between myself and Manolo." Like maybe Beloki's agent, when he heard that the rider was willing to take a paycut?
Barely two more weeks, folks, then we have the first real race of the season, the Tour Down Under, closely followed by the Tour of Qatar and the Mallorca Challenge. OK, they aren't the biggest of the bigs, but we are all looking forward to having our guys out on the roads competing again!