PORTO VECCHIO, France (VN) — RadioShack-Leopard arrived in Corsica on Wednesday for the start of the 100th Tour de France, but the team’s thoughts were more on its long-term future. Fortunately, with three days to the start, it is secured. Trek agreed today to take over the ProTeam’s license and offered a new future.
“When I took over for Johan Bruyneel, I thought this would be a short-termed project, but I gave it my all just the same,” general manager Luca Guercilena told VeloNews via telephone. “I was confident that if we created a good atmosphere, showed a good face and, more importantly, got results, we could have a future. The results show the sponsors that the system works, that they can invest in the system.”
In a press release today, Trek confirmed its investment. The Wisconsin-based bike company announced it bought the team’s UCI license and that Guercilena would stay at the helm. The Italian took over this winter when Bruyneel stepped down due to his ties to the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
The announcement continues the team’s recent good fortune. Earlier in the season, Fabian Cancellara returned to his best to dominate the classics, winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. The team raked in five elite national titles last weekend and Andy Schleck, the team’s grand tour star, starts the Tour de France on Saturday looking better than he has since crashing out of the Critérium du Dauphiné in June 2012. Schleck, the 2010 Tour winner on record, only seemed to reach full speed again in the Tour de Suisse earlier this month, but appears ready and in good spirits.
“I might just surprise this July,” he told French sports daily, L’Equipe today. “True, on the bike things weren’t going so well, but I’ll be riding on the front again soon.”
Guercilena said he was realistic about the Luxembourger’s chances in July.
“I know to win the Tour is difficult, but he can stay with the others on the climbs and try to win a stage,” the Italian said.
The sticky Schleck issue
With his form returning, Schleck could carry the team’s GC hopes through 2014. He and his brother Fränk have contacts through next year. However, Fränk still serves a doping suspension for failing a test for diuretic Xipamide in last year’s Tour. He His suspension ends next month, but according to Luxembourg’s Tageblatt newspaper, he will no longer race with the team.
“You need to ask the owner of the team, I can’t comment on it,” Guercilena said when asked about the elder Schleck, who is a friend of current team owner Flavio Becca. “We can’t comment on individual riders. In the next days, we will have more information.”
If the team annulled Fränk Schleck’s contract, it would be the first time the Schlecks have raced for different teams.
Cancellara led the team over the last year while the Schlecks struggled. He went so well, rumors circuilated that he and Trek would join with Switzerland’s IAM Cycling to form a new UCI ProTeam.
The release today almost certainly nixed that, but still failed to secure Cancellara’s future with Trek. His contract ends this season.
“At this moment, we are working with top riders, trying to keep all the big names that we have in our team,” Guercilena said. “His success was important. … Those wins by the big stars helped a lot to convince the sponsors to keep going.”
2014 and beyond
Trek VP Joe Vadeboncoeur said today that he was “looking forward to everything the future holds.” Trek bought the team’s license, but it is only valid through 2014. After next season, the team will have to apply to the UCI for renewal. Guercilena explained that, with the entry of Trek, the team is a long-term project.
“This news is good for cycling, that there’s a team that continues, instead of closing,” he said. “The project is longer than just 2014, for sure. It will last more than just one year. They announced 2014, that’s certain, but it’s clear, this is a multi-year contract.”