The Swiss Phonak Cycling Team has parted company with its team manager Urs Freuler and sports director Alvaro Pino, after the two terminated their contracts by mutual agreement. Phonak has hired former Tour de France staff member John Lelangue to replace Freuler as team manager in an attempt to win its way back into the ProTour after it was denied a licence following the Hamilton/Perez doping affair.
"I have known John Lelangue for several years," said Phonak's boss Andy Rihs in a statement. "He makes sure the team will quickly get more international attention, respect, and recognition." Lelangue, 34, already has considerable experience in an organisational role, having worked for the Belgian Olympic Committee before switching to the Tour de France organisation, where he has been for the past ten years. He is also a certified cycling coach and speaks five languages.
Lelangue will immediately start looking for a new sports director, who is expected to be named at the team's training camp in Mallorca by mid-January. One of his main tasks will be to lobby for as many wild card race entries as possible, so that Phonak compete on the level of the other ProTour teams this year. Lelangue will also do his utmost to obtain a ProTour licence for the team in 2006 as well as finding a new main sponsor.
Since the news that Phonak's star riders Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Perez tested positive for blood doping, and Oscar Camenzind for EPO, the team has lost six of its riders and staff: Hamilton, Perez, Camenzind, Freuler, Pino and team doctor Iñaki Arratibel have all resigned or been fired.