Heras to leave US Postal?
Spanish newspaper Marca is reporting that 2003 Vuelta a Espana winner Roberto Heras is negotiating to end his contract with US Postal-Berry Floor in order to join Manolo Saiz' new Liberty Seguros team.
Liberty Seguros team manager Pablo Antón recently said that the squad hoped to complete its line-up with "the acquisition of a very important rider" before the end of the year. That rider was originally world championship silver medalist Alejandro Valverde, but attention has now turned to Heras as a rider who might bring with him a chance of victory in the Tour de France.
Heras is unlikely to be a cheap acquisition for Liberty Seguros. When Heras moved from Kelme to US Postal after winning the 2000 Vuelta, the buy-out penalty was rumoured to be on the order of US$750,000; terminating Heras' contract with US Postal is likely to be even more expensive, and Heras' salary won't be small either. However, the Liberty Seguros team is believed to have a budget agreement with the sponsor that is dependent on the personnel the team can attract. Directeur sportif Manolo Saiz therefore needs a high-profile rider such as Heras, and would be able to afford him.
Liberty Seguros is yet to announce other sponsors such as a bike supplier, though Cyclingnews sources say Saiz is in talks with several Italian bike manufacturers.