As the season's peak, the Tour de France, is getting into its final days, the talk about a new German World Tour team being brought to life by shampoo producer Alpecin seems less and less believable. Time is running out to finalise the necessary paperwork to apply for a World Tour licence, and the hypothetical team's leaders, the Schleck brothers, are both busy with other difficulties at this point.
However, German national Danilo Hondo, currently with the Italian Lampre team, has been working on a concrete project for several years, and this could become a reality on the long term. For German cycling, a new top level team would be a salvation after years of drought following the disintegrations of T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner over doping affairs.
"The plan of creating a new team is real, and I'm actively working on it, together with those who are also interested in the project," Hondo confirmed to Cyclingnews at the start of stage 17 in Bagnères-de-Luchon. "Our group of people who have engaged in the project, and those who want to become our partners, is growing. But all of them realize that it is a long-term project, that needs a strong and stable foundation to be set up."
The 38-year-old did not hide the fact that he would certainly retire from racing within the next few years, and the new team is also meant to secure his own professional future on a management level. Hondo's contract with Lampre runs out at the end of the season, but at this point in time, the German did not say whether that meant he'd be able to fully commit to the new project as soon as next year. "I've had talks with Lampre and with other teams to continue my career as a rider next season, too. So we'll have to see what happens after the Tour," he said.
Unwilling to go into too much detail, Hondo did however reveal that he'd like the new outfit to start at top level, and that it would be a German-based team with an international outlook.
"Of course it would be nice to start in the World Tour right away, but there would also be advantages to starting on Professional level for perhaps the first year: everybody could learn the ropes calmly.
"One has to think globally nowadays, and all teams are structured internationally. Of course, all teams have a home base of sorts and also their national features. Being German, I do see Germany as a platform and I also think that Germany has the potential to come back into international pro cycling with a new team. So I would also like to use that platform."
Following the time limit elimination of his team leader Alessandro Petacchi in stage 11 of the Tour, Hondo is working for his team's young hopefuls, Marco Marzano and Michele Stortoni, the latter of which finished eighth of the first of the two Pyrenean mountain stages. For the remainder of the race, Lampre hopes for the penultimate stage to finally score a stage win.
"Tomorrow, we want to mobilise all of our remaining resources to try and persist in a breakaway. It will be the last great chance for a stage win, as the last stage into Paris will be a bunch sprint," commented Hondo, who has overcome his disappointment not to have been selected for the Olympics.
"There are a lot of interesting World Tour races left in the second half of the season for me, with the Eneco Tour, Hamburg, Plouay, the two Canadian races and the two stage races in China," he continued. "If you get out of the Tour in a good shape, then you're able to do something in these races, too. Especially Hamburg, which for me as a German is of course a special goal. I'm still very motivated."
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