The squirrel is a patient animal. It relentlessly accumulates food throughout the year, one nut after the other, to have its belly full during winter and come back in spring with enough energy left to be hungry for more... But what does a squirrel have to do with pro cycling? Well, the small rodent is Caisse d'Epargne's logo and mascot, and not without reason.
The French bank group is not a friend of short-term investments, at least not in its sports sponsorships. When the savings conglomerate started to back the Spanish team managed by Eusebio Unzué in 2005, it right away decided to do this for a full six years to complete the sponsorship programmes it already had in French athletics, skiing and soccer. Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner attended the team's presentation on Wednesday, January 9 at the bank's headquarters in downtown Paris.
The pro cycling team Caisse d'Epargne reflects the mentality of a steadiness. This year's squad is set to repeat its successful 2007 formula and collect top race results throughout the whole season, similar to the above mentioned furry forest inhabitant.
"Our top goals this season are the Tour de France, stage races and the Olympics," announced the outfit's general manager Eusebio Unzué at the 2008 team presentation in the glass, marble and steel palace of the French banking giant right beside the Seine River.
Indeed, this philosophy fulfilled the squad's objectives last season, already. Thirty victories by nine different riders and many top placings from February until September helped the team finish third in the ProTour rankings and win the combined team classification for the second consecutive time.
Achievements confirmed the rightfulness of the sponsorship, according to Caisse d'Epargne president Charles Milhaud. "I'm convinced that, with the victory of Oscar Pereiro in the 2006 Tour de France and the solid performances obtained in 2007, our team will again hold its colours high this year," the faithful cycling enthusiast said in his speech.
So, true to the saying "Never change a winning team", the team managed by Echavarri's Abarca Sports company chose to only slightly modify its composition for the upcoming season. Eight new riders joined the squad, amongst which four Frenchmen: Anthony Charteau, Arnaud Coyot, Mathieu Drujon and Fabien Patanchon. Two Colombians joined the team - Marlon Perez and the young talent Rigoberto Uran - alongside Spanish rouleur Luis Pasamontes and Venezuelan climber Jose Rujano.
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.
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