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The Worlds: Santi Perez Withdraws – Zaballa In
By Podofdonny
Date: 9/27/2004
The Worlds: Santi Perez Withdraws – Zaballa In

Zaballa makes the Spanish squad. Courtesy Saunier-Duval.

Phonak rider Santi Pérez, the revelation of Vuelta a España '04, who finished just 30 seconds behind the winner Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros), has confirmed today that he will not be taking part in the World Championships in Verona due to gastroenteritis. Santi Pérez, the climber who won three stages on the way to Madrid informed the national selector, Paco Antequera, that he had a “bad night” with stomach problems. "I woke up this morning feeling poorly and vomiting, it was only fair that I should inform the selectors," said the rider from his house in Vega de Peridiello.

Santi Pérez has decided that it would be better to allow another rider to take his place in Verona. Which means a late call up for the winner of stage 19 in the Vuelta,“Tino” Zaballa. Zaballa, who commented how disappointed he was not to make the selection after his famous solo victory, will now complete a very strong looking squad.

The Spanish squad which will defend the Rainbow Road jersey of Igor Astarloa (Lampre) is Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Chechu Rubiera (US Postal), Luis Pérez (Cofidis), Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros), José Iván Gutiérrez (Illes Balears), Isidro Nozal (Liberty Seguros), Pedro Horrillo (Quick Step) and Eladio Jiménez (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme).

Iván Gutiérrez (Illes Balears) and Isidro Nozal (Liberty Seguros) will represent Spain in the time trial event.

Perez and Heras battle in the Vuelta. (c) Unipublic.

Meanwhil Urs Freuler, the General manager of the Phonak team, in an interview today on the Phonak website confirmed that his team would “really like to keep Santi.” Here is the interview:

With Santi Perez's second-place overall finish in the Vuelta, the Phonak Cycling Team claims its greatest success of the current season. With five stage wins and two second-place finishes, Perez, Gutierrez, Valjavec and Co. made an impressive showing in the third Grand Tour of the year. General Manager Urs Freuler appeared correspondingly pleased with the team's performance, led to success by former Vuelta winner Alvaro Pino.

Urs Freuler, what are the General Manager's comments concerning the outcome of the Vuelta?

Of course I'm very happy and proud. After the bad luck we had in the Tour de France, this success is very satisfying. I'm especially happy for Alvaro Pino because he has consistently believed in Santi over the past two years.

What do you mean by that?

Two years ago, when Santi Perez came to us, he was hit with a terrible blow. His fiancee died in an accident. And then, last year, he had to deal with a stubborn knee injury. Everything seemed to be working against him, but Alvaro always said that Santi was among the best mountain riders in the peloton. His faith has now paid off.

There's talk in the Spaninsh newspapers that teams like US Postal, T-Mobile or Quickstep are after Perez. How good are the chances that he will extend his Phonak contract, which is expiring soon?

Of course the initial talks have already begun. We'll have discussions with him and his manager, Toni Rominger, in the next couple of days. We'd really like to keep Santi, but he'll have the final word. I just hope that, in addition to the financial aspect, he'll bear in mind that we've stood by him over the past two years.

Speaking of the 2005 team. How do things stand?

We're virtually set. The already reported additions are offset by the definitive departures of Zülle, Sevilla, Dessel, Camenzind, Fertonani, Bennati, Usov, Bayarri, Albasini. It's possible that in the next couple of days we'll be able to announce another big up-and-coming Spanish hopeful as an addition to the team, the last one for the moment.

What are the next key dates?

First of all, it's a matter of competing in the upcoming races as successfully as possible. Beginning 22 November, the complete 2005 team (support staff, riders, management) will assemble for a first get-together in Switzerland. The first joint training camp is coming up in mid January in Spain, where the official team presentation will also take place, on 14 January.

Fassa Bortolo Recruits

Fassa Bortolo have recruited two Italian heavyweights for next season's campaign: Baldato (Alessio) and Bossoni (Lampre). The Italian outfit have already added Ravaioli and Solari (both Barloworld) to their squad.

Meanwhile they have 4 riders leaving: Vandenbroucke to MrBookmaker, Aitor Gonzalez is rumoured to be joining Euskaltel, Pozzato is joining Liquigas or Quickstep, and Danielson joins Discovery Channel.

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