Two top tour riders who had no luck in 2001 due to team
machinations will lead the Italian Lampre-Daikin squad in the major
tours in 2002. Lithuanian Raimondas Rumsas (ex-Fassa Bortolo) and Russian
Pavel Tonkov (ex-Mercury) both rode for teams that did not allow them
to reach their potential this year. Rumsas, who in 2000 finished fifth
in the Vuelta España and won the Giro di Lombardia, was all set
to ride at least one of the grand tours this year. Despite a second
place finish in Paris-Nice, he was overlooked for the Giro d'Italia
and then, surprisingly for the Tour de France.
"In Fassa Bortolo I did not have room and Ferretti (directeur sportif)
does not favour the foreign riders," said Rumsas at Lampre's team
presentation today in Lake Garda. "I, a Lithuanian, did not have
the same treatment as the Italians."
Rumsas, who will turn 30 next January, started his professional career
in 1996 with Polish team Mróz, gaining several successes in the
smaller races before he transferred to Fassa Bortolo in 2000. Although
he won less races that year, his performances in the classics and the
Vuelta lifted him to 26th on the UCI rankings - he seemed certain to
be given a proper leader's role in 2001.
That did not eventuate, and a promise to ride the Tour de France was
not fulfilled. Instead, an injured Francesco Casagrande was put into
the Tour squad after he missed his chance in the Giro following a crash
in the first stage. Casagrande did not last the first week in the Tour,
and Rumsas was left wondering what might have been.
Not for too long however, as he realised that he must focus on the next
season, and getting a new team was a priority. "I will also aim
for short stage races, like the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of the
Basque Country before the tour. The classics? At the top of my objectives
is Liege-Bastogne-Liege. This team already won it with Camenzind, history
can repeat itself."
Pavel Tonkov Photo: © Lampre-Daikin
Pavel Tonkov is three years older than Rumsas, turning
33 in February. Although he is in the final years of his career, he
thinks he can still be a protagonist in the big tours. In 1996 he won
the Giro d'Italia, after an epic battle with Marco Pantani. He signed
for Mapei and followed that up with two second placings in 1997 and
1998, then a fourth in the Vuelta España in 1999, and a fifth
in the Giro and third in the Vuelta in 2000.
Unfortunately, his team for 2001 (Mercury) did not ride any of the major
tours and Tonkov was left high and dry. In the second half of the year,
he barely raced, in the meantime negotiating with various teams (iBanesto,
Team Coast and Big Mat) for his signature in 2002. Tonkov eventually
found a place in Lampre, his former team from the end of 1992 to 1995.
"Here I feel comfortable, with my family, and this is a great advantage.
After the past four years with Mapei there was this terrible season
with Mercury. It happens in this sport: if your team finishes, you are
helpless, you lose your image, contracts, and confidence with the big
He is now hoping to do something in the major tours in 2002, and believes
that although he missed out completely on this season, he still has
a good chance. "The basis of the result is the class and the personality
of the athlete," he said. "I know the Giro will, I only hope
I have the condition in order to fight to the end. I feel able to continue
at a high level for about three years.
Tonkov will start his 2002 season with the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal
from February 9-13.