While the announcement of Team RadioShack generated much buzz at the Tour de France, details were in short supply. While things are still falling into place for the new squad, Bill Stapleton, Lance Armstrong's long-time agent and partner at Capital Sports & Entertainment (CSE) which owned and managed the US Postal and Discovery Channel squads and now owns and is managing Team RadioShack, discussed the team's plans for the 2010 season.
The team is actively trying to get a ProTour license for 2010, but, while Johan Bruyneel is the name most associated with the sporting aspect of the squad, if a ProTour license is granted it will be in Bill Stapleton's name. "We are going back to a similar structure under which we ran the Discovery Channel team where the license is held by an American company that is run by Bart [Knaggs] and I and Johan owns a piece of," said Stapleton.
Stapleton acknowledges that the squad will be built around Lance. With Armstrong's minimalist racing schedule, does the team really need a ProTour license? "Obviously, I think that would guarantee us admittance into the Tour de France which is important. Outside of that I don't think there is a major difference given the calendar that our team is likely to race," said Stapleton.
While his 2010 racing schedule is likely to be very similar to 2009, Stapleton notes that there will be a potential conflict between the Tour of California and the Giro d'Italia, both of which are scheduled for mid-May. "Lance felt very good about how the Giro rode him into form. I know that is an old school approach to it, but it worked."
Both races have their positives. "It [the Giro] is a longer race than California so that is the one side. The other side is that Tour of California is an American race. We want to support American racing and people want to see Lance racing in America," said Stapleton.
After his success at the Leadville 100, Lance is also looking to do some more mountain bike races including the Cape Epic stage race in South Africa. "He really loves it [MTB racing] and RadioShack is very supportive of him doing things outside like that," said Stapleton.
But, Stapleton is quick to admit that the primary goal for Lance and the team in 2010 is the Tour de France. When asked if Lance can be competitive in France at the age of 38 he said, "another year of training versus another biological year, he will be better off," citing Armstrong's 30-minute improvement in his race time in Leadville this year over 2008.
In 2009 Lance did not take a salary from Team Astana, however, Stapleton said that Armstrong will draw a paycheck. "He's going to get paid fairly for what he does." Stapleton also added that Lance will continue to work on global cancer initiatives.
CSE has a two-year contract with its title sponsor and with rights to renew. Will the new racing kit feature the name "RadioShack" or the new marketing moniker "The Shack"? "We don't know yet. We are still early in the design process and are still working on other sponsors to fill out the roster so we really haven't gotten to the question yet," said Stapleton.
Some of the secondary sponsors will be long-term partners such as Nike, Trek, Giro and SRAM, but the team is looking to bring in one to three second-tier level sponsors, big American brand companies, similar to what the US Postal and Discovery Channel teams had with the semiconductor manufacturer Advanced Micro Devices(AMD). Livestrong will also be a sponsor.
Several ProTour teams, including Astana, utilize an internal testing program on their riders. Stapleton acknowledges that with the biological passport program and the out-of-competition testing the internal programs become duplicative citing the number and quality of the testing Lance underwent in 2009. "We are going to take a look at whether that is a necessary project or not," said Stapleton.
Team RadioShack would like to bring some of Lance's Astana teammates to the squad. "That is all tied up in Alberto Contador right now," said Stapleton. "That is the first chip that will fall in what happens with all those guys. Some of those guys have contracts for next year just like he does. Yes, there are guys there that we want."
The Trek-Livestrong U23 team will serve as a farm team with a few riders, yet to be determined, being brought up to the RadioShack squad. Stapleton clarifies that they would like to build a real franchise over the next five to 10 years and growing riders through the Trek-Livestrong team is a key part of that.
One critical component that has still not fallen in place is the man who guided Lance to seven Tour wins. "The hope is that Johan will be part of this team in a similar role as he has had with this team in the past, but we are still working this through that with Astana," said Stapleton.