By Gregor Brown
It looks like the embattled Venezuelan star José Rujano will be riding with Unibet.com for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Thursday, the 24 year-old signed a contract with the Belgium-based team. Unibet.com is one of a handful of teams vying for a ProTour license in the 2007 season.
Rujano rocketed to stardom in the 2005 Giro while riding under Gianni Savio at Selle Italia-Colombia. He won one of that year's most demanding stages, from Savigliano to Sestriere, which included the unpaved Colle delle Finestre. The stage and a solid three week performance granted him the right to the third step on the Giro's final podium in Milano and the maglia verde for best climber.
2006 was a big transition year for Rujano, who competed in Savio's team through the Giro, when he bizarrely abandoned in stage 13, before switching over to Patrick Lefevere's Quick-Step formation. His debut in the Tour de France was lack-lustre, and personal problems spelled an end to his time with Belgium's biggest team.
With Unibet.com Rujano may have found a team with the same fighting spirit as Selle Italia and it could enable him to be back in the thick of the action. According to tuttobiciweb.com, Hanegraaf and Unibet.com Team Manager Terryn Koen got the official signature of the climber, accompanied by agent Giuseppe Acquadro, Thursday afternoon in Milano's Malpensa airport.
"Rujano will definitely be our team leader in the big tours. He's got the ability to compete with the world's best climbers", said Jacques Hanegraaf, director sportif of Unibet.com. "Rujano is very ambitious and wants to race the Giro d'Italia as well as the Tour de France, but we'll make up his race programme later on!"