By Shane Stokes
Having raced this year in support of the 30 fundamental Human Rights around the world, the Saunier Duval have come up with another novel project for the 2007 season.
This time round helping the environment is the humanitarian goal, with the planting of vast numbers of trees in the African country of Mali the team’s target. Each kilometre raced will be marked by the planting of a tree, and the team feels this will go a long way towards helping the people in that area.
"The African country is fighting desertification, which has already affected 65 percent surface area," stated a Saunier Duval press release on Sunday. "The team´s 28 riders will be part of this ambitious and challenging project: racing 1 million kilometres in 2007. Moreover, each kilometre raced in breakaways will be worth double, and they will go up five times in the case of victories.
"Next year is the team´s main sponsor 100th anniversary, and the Saunier Duval-Prodir team will celebrate it in a remarkable way as a token of their gratitude to Saunier Duval, which is not only supporting the team but cycling in general as well. Is there any better way to do it than becoming involved in an initiative aimed at saving our planet?"
The project will be carried out with the support of Planète Urgence and has been named "100 years for a million trees". The first tree will be planted this January in Mopti, the location of a race where the Spanish team will compete with the best African riders.
On the official Saunier Duval celebration day of February 1, the web page "100 years for 1 million trees" will be launched and feature full details of the project. A contest for the team’s fans will be held in conjunction with this, with the winners having the chance to get involved in the unique initiative.
The news marks the second big project by a cycling team to help people living on that continent. The T-Mobile team backed Unicef’s Schools for Africa campaign in 2006, contributing 3,000 Euros per win by riders on the men’s and women’s teams.