By Tim Maloney-European Editor
When Floyd Landis's phone rang early Tuesday morning at his Murietta, California home and his boss, Phonak's general manager John Lelangue left a message, the American Tour hopeful didn't know what to think. But when he got up and listened to the message a few minutes later in the pre-dawn darkness, a big smile broke out on Floyd's face as the news sank in that Phonak was part of the ProTour thanks to yesterday's decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"Well finally there is some good news for Phonak with the (TAS) decision!", Landis told Cyclingnews. "I was worried when John Lelangue called at 5.30am and then I was caught completely off guard by the decision. Without this decision, I thought that the chances were kind of slim... that we would make the Tour De France."
As he prepared for a training ride through the Southern California hills, Landis continued by saying frankly, "I feel that this decision is a vindication for the Phonak team; we believed we deserved to be in the ProTour; for whatever problems people on the team may have had, that was really no reflection of the team as a whole. I'm sure that I'm not the only one on Phonak that is happy that TAS made this ruling and now we're in the ProTour for the next two seasons."
"For me and the other guys, it certainly makes it a lot easier to plan for the season. With this change, things have become a lot clearer; we can set goals and don't have to question whether we will even get into the big races. Maybe Robbie Hunter winning the first race down in Qatar was good luck!"
When we asked Phonak GM Lelangue about Landis recently, he told Cyclingnews, "I have seen Floyd race for years, but I didn't know him that well until recently, when I joined Phonak. Floyd is a very nice guy; down to earth and hard working. I know he will be an important part of Phonak and a good man for the Tour. I know he will ride well with our riders like Victor Hugo Peña, Santi Botero and Oscar Perriero."
Like Phonak, France's AG2R Prévoyance squad didn't get into the ProTour in November, but for entirely different reasons. AG2R team manager Vincent Lavenu said today, "I have no regrets or bitterness about this decision... [the Court for Arbitration in Sport] is the supreme authority in sport and I wouldn't criticize their decision. Phonak decided to take their case to [CAS] and we didn't and good for them that they got in. As far as we're concerned, we also did the maximum to get in but we decided to accept the decision of the UCI License Commission. At this point, our team is ready to show we are competitive with [ProTour] teams."