Rujano and Savio's Selle Italia squad at odds

Contract issues keep climbing talent at home in Venezuela

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Venezuelan climber José Rujano, third in the 2005 Giro d'Italia and best climber on the Italian tour, didn't make it to the team presentation of his Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni squad the other day in Vicenza, Italy. And his absence caused some bad vibes with the Italian team run by Gianni Savio. Because of an evolving dispute with his team over his contract status and transfer to the Quick.Step team this coming June, Rujano decided to stay home in Venezuela. The breach was first reported by Jean-Francois Quenet for Cyclingnews at the Tour of Langkawi earlier this month.

"Rujano will never race again for Selle Italia", declared the 24 year-old climbing talent's manager, Giuseppe Acquadro, who also represents Dario Frigo. "(Selle Italia) should be happy that José uses their jersey during training. (Rujano's) first race this season will be the Dauphiné Libéré and then he'll ride the Tour De France for Quick.Step." But team manager Savio was decidedly on the other side of the coin, as he explained to La Gazetta dello Sport's Claudio Ghisalberti: "I don't want to have a big conflict here. We've respected all the contractual clauses. (Rujano) is supposed to race in the GP Chiasso and Lugano this weekend. We'll see if he shows up."

Besides a misunderstanding over contractual rights regarding use of Rujano's image and endorsements, it seems that there is a major issue regarding the Venezuelan's contract. It was reported that Rujano would have a six month contract with Selle Italia in '06 until May 31, then pass over to Quick.Step. However, when Savio's Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni squad put in the paperwork for their Continental Pro license, but the UCI's auditors Ernst & Young didn't accept this. So Rujano, who already had a 2006 contract option with Selle Italia had to sign for the full year. The deal was that Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni would release Rujano to Quick.Step but now that scenario is not at all certain.

As for Quick.Step, team boss Patrick Lefevere told La Gazetta , "This situation is unfortunate...I don't like riders who don't race. I can only say that Rujano will my rider when he has his release from Savio and Selle Italia. I have an agreement with Savio and I will respect it. As far as whether Rujano will ride the Tour De France, it's much too early to say, but it's not his decision anyway."

Never one to parse his words, Lefevere continued by saying, "At this point, it's almost impossible to imagine that (Rujano) will ride the Tour."

From 2005 Giro revelation to 2006 question mark, unless he works out his contract issues, Rujano is now at risk to sit out this season unless he solves his problems with Savio's Selle Italia squad.

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