It hasn't been confirmed by the company's management yet, but it seems German shampoo producer Alpecin may be planning to sponsor a new WorldTour team as of next season. The company first showed its interest in pro cycling in February this year, when it chose Jan Ullrich as its media representative. It is also already the main sponsor of a cyclosportive event to be held in August this year.
At the start of the Tour de France in Belgium these days, rumours about the new team are getting louder. As already reported, the new outfit is said to aim at signing the Schleck brothers as well as many German pros, including Linus Gerdemann and Jens Voigt, all riding for RadioShack-Nissan at the moment. Its sports director Kim Andersen and former pro Jörg Ludewig, currently the race director of the Alpecin Days-cyclosportive, are said to become its sports directors.
"I haven't received a call with a concrete contract offer yet," Voigt told Eurosport.de. "But where there's smoke, there's fire. Perhaps they'll offer me a combined contract - one more year as a rider and then join the management."
The world governing body of cycling also welcomed the idea. "A new German team would be a good thing," UCI president Pat McQuaid commented. "It's a big market, and Germany is the most powerful country in the European Union. Cycling is very popular there."
Alpecin is also rumoured to be in talks with American equipment provider Trek, currently still in partnership with RadioShack. More potential sponsors are also said to be interested.
"All has to be ready by September," McQuaid added, which leaves very little time for the new sponsor to set up a proper structure and the needed formalities to register with the UCI. "It will hardly be feasible," said Brian Nygaard, currently spokesman for team Orica-GreenEdge, but who two years ago "worked day and night" to set up the Luxembourg Leopard-Trek outfit which included the Schlecks.
Talk of internal dysfunctionalities at RadioShack-Nissan have abounded since Fränk Schleck's abandon of the Giro d'Italia, his brother Andy's poor form at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Jakob Fuglsang's outspoken words about his desire to leave the team and USADA's doping accusations of team manager Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong.