By Monika Prell
The season has yet to conclude, but Caisse d'Epargne is already doing a "Caisse check" and can be very satisfied with the season of 2007.
The team is one of the most decorated teams of the cycling world, with 29 victories in the 2007 season, amongst them nine stage races: the Challenge of Mallorca (Luis León Sánchez), the Vuelta a Murcia and the Volta a Valencia (Alejandro Valverde), the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Suisse (Vladimir Karpets), the Vuelta a la Rioja (Rubén Plaza), the Euskal Bizikleta (Constantino Zaballa), and José Iván Gutiérrez's wins in the Tour Méditerranéen and the recent Eneco Tour.
Among the thirty cyclists appear the two Spanish champions: the Catalan Joaquím Rodriguez is the road champion and the Cantabrian Iván Gutiérrez won the time trial championships for his fourth time.
"The second places? We stopped counting them," Directeur Sportif Eusebio Unzúe said to Diario Vasco. "We already have about thirty. You can't say that we did not win.
"Valverde finished sixth, that is not bad," he commented on his star rider at the Tour de France. "The problem was that everybody expected him to win, but we are talking about the Tour, a race that is not easy to win. And we know what we talk about."
Unzúe wants to change some things in his team. The first one is the number of riders. "We want to keep 25 riders. I guess that the ProTour will go on and so for this you are not able to reduce the squad more."
As of today today, ten riders have a contract for 2008 and five have renewed their contract: Joaquím Rodríguez, Xabier Zandio, Iván Gutiérrez, José Vicente Garcia and Oscar Pereiro.
Seven riders won't continue in this team: Frenchmen Florent Brard and Sébastien Portal, Italian Marco Fertonani and Spaniards Aitor Pérez Arrieta, Vicente Reynes, Constantino Zaballa and Rubén Plaza.
Three riders are still waiting for a definitive decision. "We did not already rule what we will do with [Joan] Horrach, [Pablo] Lastras and Francisco Pérez. We said to them that if we have a place free, they will be the ones we will select. As a last resort we could also create a place for any of them." At the moment it seems that Pablo Lastras, who won a stage of the Eneco Tour last week, is likely to re-sign.
Team Caisse d'Epargne has some obligations towards the French sponsor, and it should contract additional French riders. For the moment, Mathieu Drujon (Auber) and Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole) will be incorporated in the 2008 squad. "We want to contract another French rider. We are negotiating with various cyclists, but at the moment we don't have anything locked," explained Unzúe.
Unzúe made it clear that the team won't offer a contract to 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador. "We would need more budget, and we would have to create a team only for him in regards to the Tour. Actually we are not able to do that."