The UCI cleared the way for the new Danish Christina Watches-Onfone team, featuring Michael Rasmussen, by approving its bid for a continental license.
The team took over the license of the Bianchi M1 team and could begin racing as soon as next week, the team said in a press release.
The team’s roster includes 14 riders with Rasmussen its biggest and most controversial name. Ex-pro Michael Blaudzun will be the team’s lead sport director.
Claus Hembo, the husband of Danish watch-maker Christina Hembo, told VeloNews earlier this year that the team expects to be in some major races despite its continental status for 2011.
“We have been invited to many races, much bigger and much more interesting than what’s normal for a continental team,” Hembo told VeloNews. “We have had interest from more than 100 riders, some of them are people you would know very well.”
Backing the team is Christina Hembo, who was named entrepreneur of the year in Denmark and won other business accolades for her successful watch-design company.
She met Rasmussen while the pair competed on the Danish version of “Dancing with the Stars.” Convinced that Rasmussen deserved a second opportunity to race at the elite level of the sport, Hembo stepped in as a personal sponsor and promised to underwrite Rasmussen’s salary in 2011 if he could join a ProTour team. But even with the financial guarantee, no teams expressed interest in signing the climbing specialist.
“The whole idea (of a team) started when Christina would support Michael with the clear idea of getting him back to a ProTour team. We negotiated with several teams that we would pay Michael’s salary and we negotiated with (Bjarne) Riis for four months,” Claus Hembo said. “We thought we were home safe, then Riis said he changed his mind.”
Rather than give up, they decided to buy an entire team. Hembo said they believe Rasmussen deserves a second chance to race again.
“If we couldn’t get Michael back on a ProTour team, then we will get him back in the saddle in another way, so we bought this team,” Hembo continued. “Christina really enjoyed watching Michael climb those mountains and was upset when he couldn’t come back. She believes he deserves another chance. Plan A was to get Michael on a ProTour team, so now we have Plan B. At first, everyone laughed at us and said it wasn’t possible. Now we have invitations from races and riders are calling us to join the team.”