The Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project team hasn't announced a title sponsor, the names of all of its riders, and has not even ridden its first race, but still the team tops the UCI's sporting hierarchy of teams for 2011, considered crucial to obtaining UCI ProTeam status
The team has claimed that honour based on the results of its top 15 riders, which include Andy Schleck, second in the Tour de France, and his brother Fränk, Jens Voigt, Stuart O'Grady, Linus Gerdemann, Fabian Wegmann and Jakob Fuglsang. The team has yet to confirm that signing of Fabian Cancellara but his points appear to have lifted the team from an expected third place to first.
First place in the 2011 sporting hierarchy brings “great pressure on the team,” team manager Kim Andersen told the Dutch telesport website. “It is therefore important to perform well at the Tour Down Under and make an immediate impression on the races. But the focus shouldn't be entirely on the first races. You must never lose sight of the fact that the Classics are much more important, while the Tour de France is the absolute objective.”
While it has not yet been awarded its Pro Team licence, the team won't have to worry about being invited to the major races of the year. Nor it is concerned about its financial security, even if the main sponsor has still to be announced.
“Everything has been financially covered for the next four years,” Andersen said. He did not indicate, however, when the name of the sponsor would be revealed.
The team plans to start the 2011 season with 25 riders. “We are ready,” he said. “We have attracted good riders, so expectations are high. Nevertheless, I remain humble. We have yet to prove anything,” adding that such proof would come “on the bike.”
Andersen, who worked with Team Saxo Bank's Bjarne Riis for more than six years, said he got the financial ok to proceed with the project after the Tour de Suisse. It was important to know at that time, he said, so that he could approach riders during the Tour de France.
The largest names on his team so far are the Schleck brothers, but he denies the team was created for them. “Even if Fränk and Andy had signed with another team, our team would have gone forward. Then we would have done everything to attract them in the future.”
Andersen also denied that he has “looted” Team Saxo Bank, explaining why he had signed a number of riders from hius former team. “In mid-June it was not clear whether Riis' team would be in the peloton in 2011. I've always looked for the best riders. They themselves decide ultimately which team they choose,” he said.
Team spirit will be the hallmark of the new team. "Our emphasis is not on innovation or change. We particularly want a family team. A team where everyone feels at home and works ofr each other. Team spirit is very important. That's where we can certainly stand out."
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