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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January, 2004, 16:22 GMT
Cipollini's team demoted
Mario Cipollini
Cipollini faces an uphill battle because of the decision
Former world champion Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanze team have been dropped from this year's cycling elite.

The Italian team had been threatened with being removed from the world's top 30 for failing to meet International Cycling Union (UCI) rulings.

After failing to comply, they were relegated along with Vuelta d'Espana winners Kelme.

Lance Armstrong's US Postal team had faced a similar fate but met the registration guidelines in time.

The UCI has told Domina Vacanze and Kelme they have until 15 January to meet the registration conditions to be a second-division squad.

The announcement is a major blow to Cipollini's ambitions, with most second-division teams unlikely to qualify for World Cup events.

I'm sorry to say it but when the situation is as bad as it has been for Kelme, with riders not getting paid, then it is better to call it a day
Paco Antequera
Spain's national team coach
Belgium's Palmans Collstrop and Spain's Relax Bodysol benefited from the UCI's decision and have been promoted to the top flight.

Kelme won the team title at the 2000 and 2001 Tours de France, and acted as a showcase for some of Spain's leading young cyclists in recent years including Oscar Sevilla and Alejandro Valverde.

Armstrong's former team mate Roberto Heras claimed the first of his two Tour of Spain victories in the green and white colours of the Kelme outfit in 2000.

"It is a real blow to the sport," Spain's national team cycling coach Paco Antequera was quoted as saying by sports newspaper Marca.

"Kelme is the most successful Spanish team in the peloton and has always been up there at the front despite having a very small budget and that is really praiseworthy. But to be honest I could see this coming.

"I'm sorry to say it but when the situation is as bad as it has been for Kelme, with riders not getting paid, then it is better to call it a day."

  • Meanwhile, France's Richard Virenque has set his sights on becoming the Tour de France's King of the Mountains for a record seventh time this year.

    He said: "My big objective is to win the Tour de France climber's competition again."

    Cipollini hit with fine
    23 Dec 03  |  Cycling

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