By Susan Westemeyer
The Phonak staff and riders are saying thank you and goodbye on their team's website. The team has contested its last race and will cease to exist, and the team members look back with mixed feelings.
"I am sorry that we, not only cycling but sports in general, are losing not only a team, but especially a sponsor like no other," says Director Sportif Adriano Baffi. Aurelian Clerc called it "one of the best teams in the world," while for Martin Elmiger, it was "more than a cycling team," and he notes "It will be difficult to put together such a good team in the future."
"For my cycling career, this season with the Phonak Team represented a giant step forward, which I will never forget," said Ryder Hesjedal. Axel Merckx said he found it "a very professional organization with a family atmosphere."
The rest of the cycling world may not find the Phonak experience to be so rosy. The team brought many doping scandals to the sport, from Oscar Camenzind's EPO positive prior to the Athens Olympics, to Tyler Hamilton and Santi Perez' blood doping positives, and finally Floyd Landis' testosterone positive during this year's Tour de France. This a the legacy that Team Phonak must also live with.
Sport Director Jacques Michaud summed it up this way: "I experienced a lot of nice, but also many tragic, moments as part of the Phonak cycling team. Cycling has changed a lot in the last few years. The riders are becoming more and more individualistic. The team feeling, which is especially necessary for success in our difficult sport, is disappearing. My best memories of my time with Phonak Cycling are of the victories which I experienced live, and of my very good and personal relationship with Andy Rihs. I have never met anyone else like him in the whole pro cycling circuit."