So what do you get when you toss an American electronics retailer, a Japanese auto manufacturer and a mid-western bicycle maker into a blender together and hit the high-speed button, (besides the somewhat longish new name; RadioShack-Nissan-Trek)? Not sure? Then how about cramming together in the team car a hard-charging Luxembourg real estate tycoon, with a harder charging American cycling legend and a never-stopped-charging Belgium coaching champion (Flavio Becca, Lance Armstrong, and Johann Bruyneel)? Still not sure? Well, join the club. Most everyone in the cycling world is trying to figure out exactly how this will all play out and what it will look like come the 2012-racing season. But one thing’s for certain, it’ll be anything but dull.
This new blending of some of the biggest names currently in cycling – both practitioners, backers, and strategists – is still being hammered out. Tantalizing bits and pieces have been leaking for some time, with rumors flying everywhere, until finally both RadioShack and Leopard-Trek organizations felt they had to say something and so put out a limited press release confirming the deal, but not much else. They’ve named some of the confirmed riders so far, but have said that more information will not come forth until September 15th. The obvious reason being that many important decisions like riders, staff, management and race selection have not been finalized.
Here’s what we know so far though…or at least think we know, from published reports, press releases, and some quotes from riders.
CSE (Capital Sports & Entertainment) Pro Cycling LLC, managed by Bart Knaggs and Bill Stapleton with Lance Armstrong as a key partner, have formally announced that RadioShack and Nissan are joining the Leopard-Trek World Tour Team as sponsors for the 2012-2013 seasons. The American team will no longer exist, though significant parts of it will be blended into the new entity.
The RadioShack Nissan Trek Professional Cycling Team (get used to that tongue twister) will be managed by none other than Johann Bruyneel and his sports management company and he has stated that he is looking forward to helping the new group to the top step of the podium in the Tour de France next July. All marketing operations will be handled out of Austin, Texas by CSE. The principal financial backer and founder of Leopard Trek, Flavio Becca and his organization Leopard, will continue to hold the UCI pro cycling license for the team and maintain it’s management operations from Luxembourg.
First big hurdle – UCI’s rules cap a team’s size at 30 riders. With some 55 riders currently on both teams, that makes for some tough decisions by Johann and his staff, many of whom have not been completely confirmed themselves at this writing. However, some of the cyclists that have been confirmed form a world-class mix of top riders that Johann appears to be eager to meld into the top team in the peloton. Johann was quoted, “With our sponsors’ continuing commitment and the professionalism of our riders, I’m confident that [the new team] will dominate cycling for years to come. …Now thanks to the presence of riders like Fabian Cancellara and the Schleck brothers, we have the potential to win not only Classics and major stage races, but Grand Tours as well. …We are grateful our sponsors believe in this project. This is a great milestone for our team and our global sport.”
Confirmed So Far
Andy Schleck, 26, Luxembourg, multiple national championships, 3-time consecutive runner up in the Tour de France, and runner up in the Giro. The highest potential achiever in the current peloton and a future winner of the Tour de France (yes, we just predicted that!).
Frank Schleck, 31, Luxembourg, 4-time national road race champion, former winner at Amstel Gold, Tour de Luxembourg, Tour de Suisse, and Critérium International, as well as 3rd place in last year’s Tour de France.
Fabian Cancellara, 30, Switzerland, 3 world and 8 national championships, Olympic Champion, Tour of Flanders, E3 Prijs, Paris-Roubaix, 11 grand tour stage victories, this list is long.
Andreas Klöden, 36, Germany, former national champion, twice runner up in the Tour, Olympic bronze medalist, Paris-Nice, Vuelta al Pais Vasco twice, Tirrenno-Adriatico, Tour de Romandie, Tour of Basque Country,
Chris Horner, 39, United States, Tour of California, Tour of Basque Country, Tour de Georgia, USA National Racing Calendar Champion 3 times, Top 10 at the Tour, numerous wins and top 10s.
Daniele Bennati, 30, Italy, 11 stages in grand tours, points jersey in both the Vuelta and the Giro, points jersey in Tour de Suisse, Deutschland Tour, Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, and Tour of Romandie.
Jakob Fuglsang, 26, Switzerland, former national champion, 3-time winner Denmark Rundt, Tour of Slovenia, numerous stage victories and top 10s.
Maxime Monfort, 28, Belgium, former national champion, Tour de Luxembourg, Bayern-Rundfahrt, Vuelta stage, numerous top 10s.
Janez Brajkovic, 27, Slovenia, twice national champion, Critérium de Dauphine, Tour de Georgia, numerous top 10s.
Haimar Zubeldia, 34, Spain, Tour de l’Ain, Euskal Bizkleta, 10-time participant in the Tour de France, numerous top 10 finishes.
Matthew Busche, 26, United States, reigning national road race champion.
Nelson Oliveira, 22, Portugal, U23 National champion, 2nd U23 European road race and 3rd U23 European time trial championships, 2nd and 4th U23 World TTs.
Robert Wagner, 28, Germany, reigning national champion, twice winner at Ronde van Noord-Holland, numerous top 10s and stage victories.
Jesse Sergent, 23, New Zealand, Olympic bronze team pursuit, 2 silver and 2 bronze World Championships-pursuit, Commonwealth silver-pursuit, winner Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.
Ben King, 22, United States, former national champion as well as 4 junior and U23 national championships.
Markel Irizar, 31, Spain, Vuelta a Andalucía, participated in 6 grand tours, mountains jersey Tour Down Under.
By now, you’ve surely noticed that there are a lot of names missing from this list, including some established stars and some strong new riders. Hope you’ll stay tuned here as we publish additional news in the coming weeks about what is sure to be one of the big contenders in 2012 and beyond. Andy wants to win the Tour, no question. Johann knows what it takes, and has to be excited about having the single best prospect for this coming year and possibly the next decade on board. The best in the business are betting their careers and large sums of money that this is the time, this is the opportunity, and this is the right leadership to challenge a Spaniard and an Australian for supremacy on the Champs Élysées.
Hang on to your seats, I think this promises to be good! But, what do you think?
By George Hurst