Team Radioshack director Johan Bruyneel has rejected the Vuelta a España organiser’s claim that his team wasn’t good enough to make the 22 team cut for this year’s Grand Tour. Bruyneel countered the snub by accusing the sport of being unprofessional, something he’s vowed to help change.
Radioshack had expected to earn one of the Vuelta’s six wildcard invitations after submitting a roster for the event that included Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden, Chris Horner and Jani Brajkovic.
“I am not only surprised, I am speechless,” said Bruyneel. “At first I thought it was a mistake so I called organiser Javier Guillén for some explanation. He told me that the other teams offered him better options on a sporting level. I had to ask him to repeat it as I could not believe this but I heard right: we didn’t offer a good enough team.
“I cannot accept or understand this decision,” he added. “With Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden, Chris Horner and Jani Brajkovic we had four potential Vuelta winners on the roster we sent to Unipublic. Our 2010 Team goals were the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain. That’s why - together with the need to perform well in the Tour of California – we skipped the Tour of Italy this year. ”
Clearly angered by Unipublic’s decision to invite Andalucia – Cajasur, Cervelo Test Team, Garmin – Transitions, Sky Professional Cycling Team, Team Katusha and Xacobeo Galicia over his own squad, Bruyneel vowed to fight for teams’ rights. Some 16 teams were already assured a start at the Vuelta under an agreement penned in 2008, including the Astana team that Bruyneel formerly led.
"After what I heard today, I take it as a personal mission: from now on I will fight for the interests of the cycling teams. It will be more than just a goal,” he said. “I will work for it as hard as I’ve worked for my own team. It is really urgent that action be taken now as this is the time that the organisers will listen to the opinions of the teams. I will do everything that I can to bring all big teams to one level. What happened today is only a detail.”
Bruyneel added that he believes there’s an abuse of power in the sport and he’s disappointed that Radioshack, a new sponsor to cycling in 2010, isn’t rewarded for its financial commitment to the ProTour team.
“In cycling there are three parties: UCI, organisers and teams/riders. Unlike in other professional sports, the teams and riders are the main actors who are never heard. I will fight for our rights and for other things that rightfully belong to us but we never get. There is an abuse of power. Some organizers take away the hunger of potential sponsors to invest in our sport. It is unjust that a new sponsor, coming into cycling with a lot of enthusiasm, is not rewarded for their financial input. For me it is hard to explain to my sponsor that 21 other teams are apparently better than us. Especially when it isn’t true. These actions are unfair to our sponsors as well as a blow to our fans.
“It is high time for ‘professional’ cycling to become professional,” he added. “The structure of our sport needs to change towards a model of other successful professional sports like soccer, tennis, Formula 1, etc. Today, this is happening to our team and sponsors, tomorrow it could be any other team. Even if some parties don’t like to see or hear this, I will do anything which is in my power to contribute to making this happen.”
Bruyneel’s team didn’t start the world’s second biggest Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia, last month as it informed race organiser RCS Sport that the Tour of California was the focus of its plans for May. The team’s choice to not seek a start at the Giro – an event most teams fight fiercely for a start at – led RCS Sport to not issue an invite to the squad for Tirreno-Adriatico.