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Spanish Organization for Blind to End 15-Year Sponsorship of Professional Cycling - 2003-08-04


The Spanish organization for the blind, ONCE, says it will end its 15-year sponsorship of professional cycling at the end of this year.

In a statement Monday the organization, which has provided backing for the ONCE-Eroski team, said it would continue lower level support of the sport in the run-up to the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

ONCE's partnership with Eroski is credited with putting Spain at the forefront of the sport. The team tallied 431 victories, including two team triumphs in the Tour de France, four in the Tour of Spain and two world time trial wins.

ONCE communications director Fernando Mendia called it "the end of an era." He said the company will concentrate its efforts on other sponsorship ventures such as the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, which are closer to the organization's social aims.

Some of the top cyclists in the world have ridden for ONCE, including Swiss rider Alex Zulle and Frenchman Laurent Jalabert. Its current team leader is Joseba Beloki, who was injured in a fall at the last month's Tour de France, but one of the most consistent racers in the event in recent seasons.

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