By Tim Maloney, European Editor
RAI-TV cycling commentators Auro Bulbarelli and Davide Cassani had a lot of positive things to say about the surprise of the Giro d'Italia, Phonak's Jose' Gutierrez Cataluna and the team as a whole, which took both team prizes home to Switzerland. And there was a lot of speculation about what role 'il Bufalo' Gutierrez Cataluna might play in support of Phonak's team leader Floyd Landis, who also gained a lot of praise from the RAI-TV commentators.
Cassani said, "Landis is one of the favourites for the Tour de France, along with Basso, Ullrich and Vinokourov", while Bulbarelli, mistakenly calling Landis a Mormon, also had praise for the American. In an interview with Phonak DS Adriano Baffi, RAI-TV's Alessandro Fabretti asked Baffi about Phonak at the Giro and he explained, "We're very happy about how Gutierrez rode at the Giro and are looking forward to the Tour, where Landis will be our leader."
As for the future of the team in 2007, when Phonak will not return as a sponsor, Baffi explained "nothing has confirmed yet, but we have been talking to some companies, so we are hopeful."
Cyclingnews sources have revealed that Phonak's current second sponsor I-Share has an option to become title sponsor in 2007 and that USA Cycling president and Phonak team consultant Jim Ochowicz, who brought in I-Shares as a sponsor, will take over management of the the squad should I-Shares chose to exercise their option. But nothing is currently confirmed as to Phonak's fate, and may not be until after the Tour.