French squad AG2R La Mondiale will include fewer Eastern European riders next season unless team manager Vincent Lavenu opts to hire new riders. According to France's Cyclismag, Russian rider Vladimir Efimkin left the team on August 1, due to family reasons. Efimkin has returned to the US, where he lives, to be with his wife.
"We found an agreement with him," said Lavenu. For the moment, Efimkin has not signed with any other team, but could continue his career on North American soil. The former Caisse d'Epargne rider was with AG2R since 2008.
Estonian rider René Mandri has meanwhile indicated that he too will no longer ride for the French team in 2011. His departure is the "mutual wish" of both parties, and Mandri hopes to be able to announce his new team in the next few days.
Unless he decides to hire a new Estonian, Lavenu will thus not have any riders from that country in his squad next year, which would be a first since he started managing cycling teams in 1992 with Chazal.
Slovenian rider Tadej Valjavec, who was suspended by his team this year until he was cleared of doping suspicions by the Slovenian cycling federation, will nevertheless not be able to make his come-back to racing soon. Because of ongoing stomach problems, Valjavec may be forced to delay his return until next season.
"The situation has improved, but I am not in good health yet," he told the Dnevnik newspaper. "The doctors allow me to train but I am still on medication." Valjavec was supposed to get back to racing in September to prepare for the Giro di Lombardia, but now may have to wait until February next year.
Stomach problems were also part of his defence when he had to justify the abnormal blood values from his Biological Passport in front of his federation. The UCI is currently analysing the case to decide whether or not to appeal it at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
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