By Jean-François Quénet in Tanah Rata
José Rujano, the Venezuelan sensation of last year's Giro d'Italia who finished overall and won two mountain stages, is a big miss on the start list of this year's Le Tour de Langkawi, where he finished second to Ryan Cox in 2005. But it appears he's also likely to miss the Giro due to a tussle between him and Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni's team manager Gianni Savio.
Arriving late in Malaysia, Savio recalled Rujano's comments to the Venezuelan press last month, saying: "I want to dedicate my first pink jersey to Gianni Savio." When he was approached by Quick.Step in August last year, his current team he was contracted with until the end of 2006 accepted to release him after the Giro d'Italia.
"We wrote a new five-month contract, until May 31st, Savio said. Then Rujano asked us to skip Le Tour de Langkawi because he wanted to peak for the Tour de France and use the Giro as preparation. We said it's fine. When he spent a few days with us in Venezuela, the relationship was very good, but then he flew to Italy and his manager called me, asking for more money. I told this person that a deal was a deal and I wouldn't speak with him anymore."
It was rumoured in Italy that Rujano wouldn't even start the Giro this year but would only begin the 2006 season with Quick.Step on June 1 and take part in the Tour de France and Tour of Spain. "At this stage, I don't know if Rujano will ride for Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni at all this year," lamented Savio, "although he's scheduled to start the GP of Chiasso and Lugano at the end of February."