Cycling: Zulle to peddle wares at Banesto

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The Independent Online
ALEX ZULLE, who along with several other of his Festina team-mates was ejected from the Tour de France after admitting taking drugs, is to leave the team.

The director of Festina, Juan Fernandez, confirmed the departure of the Swiss rider yesterday and hinted that more big names might follow. But Fernandez, who took over at Festina in the wake of the Tour de France doping scandal, insisted a "new philosophy" based on young riders and a clean image could rebuild a team expelled from the sport's premier race.

Zulle, twice winner of the Tour of Spain, is expected to sign a two-year contract with the Spanish team Banesto in the next few days, although he will be ineligible to ride before April because of a ban imposed after the Tour de France.

"I was prepared for this blow because there was always the possibility that he would leave," Fernandez said. "Alex has gone for economic reasons, I respect his decision. Richard Virenque and Laurent Dufaux are in a similar situation, although I hope they don't go."

Looking towards the future, Fernandez outlined his plans for a new strategy without a high-profile team leader: "I have to streamline the team and then see what we're left with. I would have liked to continue working with Alex but that wasn't possible.

"I'm not looking for a new team leader. How can I let one of the best cyclists in the world go only to sign an inferior rider for the same money? We're not planning on doing that.

"The philosophy is different now; small races, young riders and a good image. It's going to be more difficult but we want to continue in professional cycling for many years to come."