CYCLING: Pantani out of Tour of Spain

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The Independent Online
MARCO PANTANI will not be fit to race in September's Tour of Spain because of a knee injury sustained earlier this month, his Mercatone Uno team announced yesterday.

However, the Italian cyclist who was forced to drop out of this year's Giro d'Italia after a test showed he had unacceptably high levels of red blood cells, still hopes to overcome the knee strain in time for the World Championships in October.

"Unfortunately the problem with the right knee, now in the process of improving, has slowed down preparations, preventing Pantani from reaching ... the hoped-for physical condition," a team spokesman said.

The Tour of Spain, the last major Tour of the season, begins on 4 September.

Britain's major international cycle race, the Prutour, was cancelled yesterday, but the British Cycling Federation are challenging the decision.

After two years of a four-year contract the sponsors, Prudential, a high street Building Society, announced that, following a review of advertising and promotional strategy, they had decided to cut their support. "While the race has been an effective marketing initiative we could not justify the ongoing spend," a spokesman said.

In a statement the Federation said that they would be "seeking further advice. The contract does not terminate until 2001, and there is no provision for earlier termination."

Sponsors are shy about expenditure, but with "extras" including a nightly television slot the seven-day Prutour may well have cost around pounds 500,000. Prudential will still sponsor next year's World Track Championships at Manchester, and their national scheme aimed at helping young people to develop cycling skills.