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Widespread shock at RadioShack’s Vuelta exclusion

Chris Horner paces RadioShack teammate Levi Leipheimer at the head of the field.

Chris Horner paces RadioShack teammate Levi Leipheimer at the head of the field. (Image credit: Jon Devich)

Team RadioShack boss Johan Bruyneel was far from being the only one astonished that his team missed out on one of the six final invitations to the Vuelta a España. Most commentators in Spain had the American team down as certainties for selection alongside Spanish pro continental outfits Andalucía-Cajasur and Xacobeo-Galicia. Instead, those two teams were joined by Garmin, Sky, Katusha and Cervélo.

All are strong teams, but none is likely to field a line-up anywhere near as powerful as RadioShack would surely have done, with Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden, Chris Horner and Janez Brajkovic all likely or possible contenders for the overall title.

Vuelta boss Javier Guillén defended his choice by saying, "Every fan has their own preferences, but for us, the list [of teams selected] is ideal for our race." Guillén did say of RadioShack that "it’s a good team, that can’t be denied," and insisted that the recent doping allegations made against Bruyneel and RadioShack team leader Lance Armstrong had nothing to do with his decision. "There is no evidence that proves Landis' allegations. Our criteria [for selection] have been strictly sporting."

But some didn’t see it that way…

Chechu Rubiera, veteran RadioShack rider with nine Vuelta appearances behind him who won't now be seen on the Cotobello climb in his native Asturias that has been renamed in his honour: "There is no justification for this based on sporting criteria. We were going to take Brajkovic, Horner, Haimar Zubeldia and Steegmans. And we didn't ride the Giro in order to save ourselves for the Vuelta. I can't begin to understand what has happened. I can understand that Cervélo are there if Sastre, a winner of the Tour de France, is in their line-up. And also that they have picked two teams with Spanish sponsors. But there are some foreign squads that have been picked without any reason."

Alvaro Pino, manager of Xacobeo-Galicia: "To understand the value of the invitation we have received you must have to look at the quality of the important teams that have not been selected."

Luis Román Mendoza, journalist with "Cycling is the only sport that – step-by-step, day-by-day, year-by-year, but especially stupidity-after-stupidity – seems to be set on its own destruction… The reasons for not selecting the North American team are not clear. Some have suggested that it’s because they weren’t planning to send their best riders. It was clear that Armstrong certainly wasn’t going to ride, and if Klöden and Leipheimer weren't going to be there either then what was the problem with them having a young leader like Brajkovic, whose victory in the Dauphiné Libéré was no fluke, alongside an Iberian group of riders composed of Zubeldia, Irizar, Rubiera, Machado and Paulinho?"

But not everyone was so quick to condemn Guillén’s selection…

Juan Mora, journalist at Spanish sports daily AS: :When the [Landis-related] scandal involving Armstrong erupted, the Tour de France had already invited RadioShack and withdrawing that invite would present legal complications. This case is different: there is no veto because this team is simply not being invited. This is zero tolerance. "Are saints being penalized for the actions of sinners? That is probable. Cyclists such as Brajkovic and Leipheimer are among those affected. As well as Zubeldia and Rubiera."

Meanwhile, Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford provided a different perspective: "It's been one of the hardest Vueltas to get into for a number of years and we never took anything for granted. The process started a little while ago and this news today is a real vote of confidence in the team and everything we are trying to do with it."

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).