Johan Bruyneel is looking forward to helping Andy Schleck win the Tour de France. The Belgian said that will be one of his main goals at RadioShack-Nissan-Trek in the coming season, while admitting that the team is having some growing pains at the moment.
It was announced earlier this week that RadioShack and Leopard Trek will join forces to ride as one team next season.
He “very much looks forward” to working not only with current RadioShack riders but also with current Leopard riders, including Fabian Cancellara, Fränk Schleck, Jakob Fuglsang, Maxime Monfort and Daniele Bennati, Bruyneel wrote on his website.
The biggest challenge, however, would seem to be Andy Schleck, “obviously one of the most talented riders in cycling and it is my goal to help him achieve the goal of winning the Tour de France. As with every rider, there are always improvements to be made and I think with these adjustments and the team we will put together, Andy will have his best chance yet of standing on the top step in Paris.”
The final details of the structure of the new team are still being worked out, and Bruyneel acknowledged that “the information (sometimes not completely accurate) finds its way into the press, which has caused us to announce this new venture a bit earlier than we originally planned.” The final team roster will be announced by September 15.
UCI apparently not informed
The International Cycling Union issued a stiffly-worded announcement Wednesday evening concerning the new 2012 team, and indicated that it had not been informed beforehand of the changes. The UCI said that it “is aware of the information published in the media concerning the project”, and added that “the UCI has also learned from the same sources of the intention of the CSE Pro Cycling LLC – financial managers of the American team RadioShack – to give up the UCI WorldTour licence that it had been granted for the 2010-2013 period.
"The UCI is currently evaluating the information received and is not available to comment further at this time.”
Leopard sponsor questions deal
The UCI was not the only one who appeared to have been taken by surprise. One of Leopard Trek's sponsors is Mercedes-Benz Luxembourg, which was taken aback by the arrival of its rival Nissan as new sponsor.
In a statement issued this week, the auto company said that it was surprised to see the Leopard press release which said that RadioShack and Nissan would be two top sponsors of the team as of 2012. Mercedes-Benz Luxembourg notes that it has "a valid contract with Leopard SA through the end of 2013. The consequence of the latest decision by Leopard SA must now be discussed by the contract partners."
Flavio Becca, the financier behind the team, saw the situation differently. “We have a contract with Mercedes which can be cancelled at any time under various circumstances,” he told Wort.lu. “We will be equipped by Nissan as of 2012. I want to thank Mercedes-Benz Luxembourg and also Enovo [a further sponsor -ed.]. They believed in us and I think we gave them a lot of visibility.”
Personnel comings and goings
RadioShack had 30 riders this season, and Leopard has 25. The new team may have no more than 30, so it is obvious that changes will be made. Several riders have already announced new teams for the coming season, but others fear for their jobs.
Becca made it clear that the new team would consist largely of current Leopard riders. He indicated that of the 25 riders now on the team, the five whose contracts expire the end of the year would leave. “That reduces the number of our riders to 20. If you do the maths, you can see that we can take on 10 new riders.”
Those five riders are Jens Voigt, Martin Pedersen, Bruno Pires, Thomas Rohregger and Stuart O'Grady. The latter has already announced that he will ride for the new GreenEdge team next year.
Two of the RadioShack riders who will be with the team next year are Markel Irizar and Haimar Zubeldia. Irizar last Saturday signed a new two-year contract with Bruyneel, telling biciciclismo.com, “I'm in, but you have to remember the people who stay outside and that the current situation is not good for cycling.”
Zubeldia echoed those sentiments, saying “We're in but is a pity that some are left out.”
Becca has said that Sports Director Kim Andersen is welcome to stay on with the team, with Andersen telling the Danish newspapers Ekstra Bladet, “I assume that I will continue.”
He added, “it is clear that things are changing and when everything is in place, I will consider whether I am interested in being part of the set-up that comes out of it.” He said that he particularly would like to continue to work with the Schlecks and Fuglsang.