UCI president Pat McQuaid was a guest at the Team Leopard-Trek launch in Luxembourg on Thursday and used the opportunity to sing the new team's praises. However, with the Alberto Contador and Franco Pellizotti cases still not settled, the Irishman and the sport's governing body still have pressing matters to deal with away from the glitz and glam.
Put together by Brian Nygaard and Kim Andersen, with the financial backing from Flavio Becca, Team Leopard-Trek put on an almost all-day show as they unveiled their kit, riders and bikes for their debut season.
"I'm here to support the team," said McQuaid. "It's my responsibility as the President of the UCI to support this. Andy Schleck is one of the big stars of cycling but we have many big stars: Cancellara, Fränk Schleck, and many others. We don't have one outstanding star like we've had in the past. We've got several."
McQuaid was invited to the stage by Nygaard and gave the following address:
"This is a big day for Luxembourg cycling and I can tell you it's a big day for the UCI and for world cycling," McQuaid told the 4,000-strong audience. "When I first heard of this project from Brian about six months ago, I told him that we would be completely 100 percent behind him; we have been behind him since then and we've been extremely pleased to be here this evening to see the launch of this team.
"Its philosophy, everything about this team is what cycling needs today. We have a wonderful sport...and I think this team portrays everything that is good about this sport and the will continues for the next years to do so.
"It's very good for the sport, it's good promotion for the sport. They've come in with new ideas, the people behind this are people from outside the sport of cycling and that is very good. Fresh ideas are good, we can't always be the same year in, year out.
"Cycling evolves and we can see that it's evolving with Sky, RadioShack and this team and this is what we need, to create stars and have our sport all around the world."
Lack of French firepower in ProTeam ranks
Team Leopard-Trek has not pushed a pedal in anger yet but due to the transfer activity this season it starts 2011 as the top-ranked team in the world as under UCI rules riders carry points over to their new squads.
The UCI ProTeam ranks for 2011 contain just one French team, Ag2R La Mondiale, with FDJ, Cofidis, Team Europcar and Saur-Sojasun all registered as Professional Continental outfits. While the reaction from France has been critical, McQuaid has reacted by claiming that France may have had too many top-level squads in previous years.
"Maybe four teams were too much several years ago, maybe one or two teams would have been enough because this is the highest level of the sport and there are only so many riders in each country that can compete at the highest level. I have no doubt that French teams will come back in the coming years and we'll see more than one team in the World Tour," he said.
Contador and Pellizotti shadows
While McQuaid was in Luxembourg to sing praises, two large shadows still loom large on the horizon. Alberto Contador has yet to be sanctioned or acquitted by the Spanish federation for his Tour de France positive for Clenbuterol, while Franco Pellizotti has threatened to sue the UCI after he was cleared to race.
The governing body will choose which course to take with Contador once a ruling has been made in Spain but has until January 13 to decide on the Pellizotti case. The UCI has the option to appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) in what could be a landmark ruling in the short life of the governing body's biological passport. For now, though, McQuaid would not be drawn out on either matter.
"Like I've been saying since last October, I don't want to comment on the Contador case. We wait until the finish and then we see what the decision of the Spanish federation is. Then the UCI will decide whether we will accept it or appeal to CAS. Other than that I don't want to comment."