Pro Cycling News – Vuelta '06, Liberty Boss Quits,

Dec 14 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a Vuelta. It’s posted here, complete with map, and features a fat five summit finishes. The Spanish Tour also has a mere 61k of TT in toto, perhaps in a show of solidarity with the other Grand Tour courses for next year, filling in the gap left by a hard man’s Giro and an “Ullrichfest” Tour. Distubringly, though, Liberty Seguros, the team that just lost the ’05 Vuelta title on a doping positive, has also lost its president to resignation. Manuel Pradera, who was the majority shareholder in the company that owns Liberty, cryptically cited “things I do not agree with and that I cannot change” (I really feel like that means “drugs”, but won’t go so far as to say it) as his reasons for departure, but promised that the team was in no danger of collapse.

While some of his friends have gathered to create a tribute song (no, seriously) the late Pirate’s mother remains unconsolable over her son’s death some three years after the event, and is increasingly coming to believe that her son was murdered. Having a l’Equipe reporter writing a book examining the Pantani murder theory probably isn’t going to help the ’98 Tour winner’s grieving mother recover, though such a wild, and apparently suspicious death at a such an early age certainly has cemented il Pirata’s legacy in the pantheon of cycling greats. It’s relevant, I think, to the UCI/Grand Tours debate (latest update here) to realize that such legacies are dependant upon being able to make the start list of big races. Pantani made his name as a wild card who boldly struck out against the dominant riders, but was deeply wounded by his team’s automatic exclusion from later Tours. No matter who wins this ugly debate, a more flexible team selection process is definately in order.

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