Caisse d’Epargne & Valverde

Thursday, 8 April 2010


Valverde’s got the squirrel by its nuts

Following my piece on the Basque country and Valverde’s ongoing presence in the bunch, reader Alex Murray left a comment asking whether Valverde’s team sponsor had taken a stance. I was curious about this too, after all whilst the team is Spanish, Caisse d’Epargne is a a French bank and so perhaps outside the Iberian network that seems to line up behind Valverde. It’s also a savings bank and so the image of backing a potential cheat is not exactly helpful to the brand.

So I put in a call to the bank’s Paris HQ to get their view on the matter and they kindly came back. Speaking to an informed and interested PR staffer – they aren’t all this helpful – I got the house view. A lengthy chat can be reduced down to one sentence:

“We are waiting for the UCI to rule and cannot act before then.”


My views…

A part of my day job involves reading between the lines of PR statements. From the voice tone alone the Caisse man was not happy with this situation – who would be – and I suspect the bank cannot act alone, for example sack Valverde, without exposing itself to legal action. This could only drag their name through the mud, enrich lawyers and simply worsen matters.

My impression, a personal view, and not stated explicitly, is that they are very keen for the CAS, the UCI and others to come to a settled judgement, even if this means Valverde gets banned. If the authorities rule against Valverde, I wouldn’t rule out action from the sponsor, whether it is sacking Valverde or even withdrawing on the spot, presumably paying wages in full but demanding that the team does not race a day longer in its colours.

Remember, this is a sponsor that has announced its withdrawal from the sport and has little to gain from publicity, good or bad. Like I say they were kind enough to talk to me so if you don’t like guesswork, refer to the statement in quotes above and ignore my views.

Alex Murray April 8, 2010 at 4:58 pm

How very French to wait for bureaucracy to work its course!

So, possible that Caisse have done a similar deal with the team structure to Stapleton and T-Mobile as part of a possible exit strategy and honour wages in full but withdraw brand from team? They've only got half a season less so the dent surely won't be as big as the T-Mobile one was.

As a sponsor Caisse have more than done their time in the sport and it does seem to have been an increasingly odd fit for them.

I've always presumed that the Fernando Alonso team that is rumoured would be backed by Santander as the main sponsor. They would be my wildly speculative tip to step into the breach, given that they'd get a fully formed predominantly Spanish team with some decent enough riders and the possibility of being able to lure Alberto Contador.

Then again that's complicated by Contador's apparent relationship with Specialized being a possible sticking point given Unzue's relationship with Pinarelllo. Or maybe we'll end up with a Schleck/Contador/Cancellara superteam to rival Renault or La Vie Claire in their prime.

TheInnerRing April 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Hmm, some extrapolation there Alex!

But you're right, I did get the sense that they have something up their sleeves. We'll have to wait and see whether this is just saying "he has been banned, therefore he forfeits his contract" or anything bigger.

But if Valverde gets busted this is bad news for the team structure that's been there since the Reynolds days in the 80s, via Banesto and Illes Balears. The management have long supported him and risk finding themselves on the losing side. I'm thinking aloud but would ASO want these people on the start line?

Jarvis April 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

Is it such a bad thing for Caisse to wait? They are, after all, only a sponsor and other than withdrawing their support – which they have done at the end of the year anyway – there is little else they can do. Perhaps, by waiting, there is something in the contract whereby Caisse are able to dump the team and save themselves some dollar at the same time. Not exactly honourable, but any damage they are likely to have suffered at Piti's hands is likely to have already been done.

I don't see that Contador, Santander and Alonso would have anything to gain by taking over a team that has lost all credibility. It seems to matter little these days whether or not you are a ProTour team or not, especially if Bertie is on your roster. They would be just as well to set up a new team and try to avoid dealing with old skool set-ups and cliques. Remember, to be a superteam as Alsono's rumoured team is being described, they will be having to aim at the bar Sky and HTC have set.

I'm thinking the Saur-Sojasun might be putting off booking their summer holidays just yet.

Alex Murray April 9, 2010 at 12:24 pm

It's a difficult situation for the team structure. While they've been publicly supportive, although not loudly so, one wonders if privately they've not been more uncertain.

Perhaps that would explain Pereiro's recent comments about people trying to persuade him he was a Tour-winning rider after 2006: They were glad to have an alternative as they feared losing Valverde.

Whether ASO want them there in July, I've never noticed them muttering about his presence previously at their races, but maybe that changes with the CAS ruling on Italy.

While it would be sad to lose the heritage of Reynolds>Banesto>Iles>Caisse perhaps they are part of the "old generation" like Pevenage/Godefroot at T-Mobile whose time is now passing.

TheInnerRing April 9, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Alex, the team Рnot the sponsor Рknow the full story on Valverde and there's little doubt and self-questioning. They know that their brazen methods have brought them the Dauphin̩ and the Vuelta, plus many more races.

Perhaps a more active sponsor could prompt a reaction here, for example a public call to compare the DNA. But this would only bring bad news, Caisse aren't their to clean up the sport.

ASO have an interesting position here. Last summer they said Valverde couldn't come because the race was going to Italy where Valverde is banned. They didn't say "you look dodgy, stay away". Telling.

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