José Rujano looks set to return to one of Europe’s leading teams next season, with Androni Giacottoli and Movistar reported to be in the running for the Venezuelan climber’s signature.
Reports in the Venezuelan press indicate that the 28-year-old is close to agreeing a deal with Androni that would enable him to fulfill certain commitments with his Gobernación de Zulia team. This would reunite Rujano with Gianni Savio, his boss at what was the Selle Italia team.
Rujano was mentored by Savio at Selle Italia from 2003. In 2005 Rujano, then only 23, finished third and won the mountains title at the Giro d’Italia. He subsequently fell out with his Italian team boss in 2006, when his European agent angled to get him out of his Selle Italia contract and eventually secured him a deal with Quick Step.
According to Rujano’s agent in Venezuela, Hernán Alemán, the deal with Savio’s team will enable Rujano to race for Androni between February and May next season. In June he will return to Latin America to race in Vuelta al Táchira, Vuelta a Colombia and Vuelta a Venezuela in Gobernación de Zulia colours.
“The agreement is for two years with the condition that Rujano can stay with the Gobernación de Zulia team for various national and international events,” said Hernán during the presentation of Venezuela’s national tour. “He will be part of the Androni team from February to the end of May with the specific goal of taking part in the Giro d’Italia.”
However, as has often been the case with a rider who has had short and not very successful spells with Quick Step, Unibet, Caisse d’Epargne and ISD Neri, things may not be as straightforward as Hernán has indicated. According to Spanish website Biciciclismo, Rujano’s agent in Europe, Giuseppe Acquadro, is negotiating a different option.
They report that Acquadro is in “advanced negotiations” with Eusebio Unzué, manager of what is currently the Caisse d’Epargne team but which will be backed by Spanish mobile phone operator Movistar from next season. Movistar have considerable interests in Venezuela, and Biciciclismo report that this has been a key factor in Unzué wanting to give Rujano a second chance following his disappointing season with the team in 2008.
This year Rujano won the Vuelta al Táchira in his native Venezuela and the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, once again underlining his ability on the climbs in both races.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).