Dec 10, 2003 10:50 AM
|Just saw this posted on TSN.CA that Heras will be leaving Lance and the Postal boys in the next day or two.|
|I think this is old news nm||RoyGBiv|
Dec 10, 2003 10:51 AM
|USPS releases Heras||Sao|
Dec 11, 2003 10:50 PM
USPS releases Heras
Tailwind Sports has commented on the departure of its star climber Roberto Heras, who will next year race for Liberty Seguros, the new team formed by former ONCE director sportif Manolo Saiz.
In a statement released on December 11, 2003, Tailwind Sports said, "Roberto Heras officially parted ways with the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, which is presented by Berry Floor, and joined the Liberty Seguros cycling team."
According to Tailwind Sports, the owner of the USPS team, Heras used a clause in his existing contract with the USPS team, which extended through the 2004 season, to part ways amicably with the team he raced for since 2001.
In an effort to replace Heras, the team has signed Jose Azevedo for the 2004 season. The 30-year-old Portuguese rider, sixth overall at last year's Tour de France, had agreed to ride for the Portugal-based Milaneza-MSS team but team management allowed Azevedo to leave the team and sign with the USPS.
It has been a busy few weeks for USPS team director sportif Johan Bruyneel. "Two weeks ago I was contacted by Roberto's lawyer and was told about an offer Roberto received," said Bruyneel. "My first reaction was not in favour of it at all (Heras leaving), considering the time of year and especially because Roberto was an important rider for our team at the Tour and with him winning the Vuelta.
"When I found out Roberto's intentions (to leave) were pretty serious, I felt it was no use and we had to work out a deal. If someone's intentions are to ride for another team, what can you do. Ideally, I would have liked to have kept him on the team but if not, we needed to immediately find a replacement," he said.
Bruyneel said when he learned that bringing Azevedo to the team was possible, he jumped at the chance. "Azevedo is a great rider and will fill in Roberto's position well," said Bruyneel. "Roberto is a different type of rider, having won big stage races while Azevedo has not, but for the Tour, he will be one of our big riders."
Commenting on Heras' decision to leave the team, five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong said he was not too surprised. "Roberto's a leader and had the opportunity to go and do that, plus get a longer term deal," Armstrong said on his official web site. "I wish him well."
Regarding the addition of Azevedo, Armstrong added, "The "Ace" does fit in well. He can climb, time trial, and is strong in the TTT (team time trial). He'll fit nicely." "It will be interesting to see him (Heras) as a leader of one of our rivals," said Bruyneel. "It will be strange at first but we are all professionals and definitely have no hard feelings."