After months of speculation the Caisse d'Epargne team have announced that communications giant Telefonica will sponsor the team from next season. The Spanish squad will compete under the name of Team Movistar as of January 1, 2011. The team’s budget and the duration of the contract with Telefonica have yet to be made public.
Caisse d'Epargne announced earlier in the year that they were pulling out of the sport. Since then team boss Eusebio Unzué had struggled to find a replacement backer, with a number of his stars, including Luis Leon Sanchez, courted by rival teams. He had indicated that he wanted riders to give him until August 15 before signing with new teams, implying that a sponsor announcement was imminent.
The safety of a new sponsor would now suggest that Sanchez, along with a large contingent of Spanish riders, will remain with the team for at least another year.
Team directeur, Neil Stephens, himself strongly linked with a move away from the team, said that he was pleased a sponsor could be secured, but was unaware of both team budget and the length of the sponsor involvement.
“The news isn’t a complete surprise as there have been rumours here and there in the press. I knew that we were on the verge of signing and that there were just a few details. It’s great for the future,” Stephens said.
“I’m not sure where guys like Luis are at in terms of next year though. I know he was close to signing with Rabobank but that a bunch of riders were going to wait for the boss out of respect and that they’re still waiting. A couple of guys will go, that’s normal but the majority of the block will stay.”
The Spanish-based team started under the name of Reynolds in 1980, and was then sponsored by Banesto and Iles Baleares before the French bank took over in 2006. The bank revealed in January that it would cease its association with the team.
In June the team’s leader Alejandro Valverde was given a two-year worldwide suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for his involvement in the Operacion Puerto doping affair.
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