Whilst all eyes are on the Contador-Riis-Saxo announcement, let’s not forget the Schleck brothers.
They are supposed to be starting their team for 2011 and if all this sounds a bit distant, maybe you’re thinking about next July and the Tour, it’s actually a very current matter. Riders need to be recruited, no mean feat if you plan to have a go at the GC of the Tour de France and the race next year includes a team time trial and beaucoup Alps.
But another aspect is paperwork. UCI rules require standard form rider contracts to be submitted by 1 August and the actual registration paperwork, plus the hefty bank guarantee, has to reach Switzerland by 1 September. Put simply, the money has to be in place now.
Only I’m scratching my head about this new Luxembourg team. You’d think a new project like this would be trying to seek publicity already, but the whole project seems under wraps. All the UCI papers say is that this is called “Team Lëtzebuerg” for the time being. Nobody even knows who the sponsor is.
Scouring the Luxembourg press, one name comes up: Flavio Becca. Apparently he’s made money in residential real estate in the Duchy and likes to spend some of his fortune on sport. But Google reveals little about this man. Luxembourg is a small place, the Delaware of Europe: loads of companies are listed as being based here but it’s just a business address. The Duchy has a population of about 500,000.
It seems he got involved in motor racing but the project never quite worked and he’s also behind one of Luxembourg’s top football teams, F91 Dudelange. Apparently three teams with a decent history in the Duchy were in financial trouble and merged in 1991 to form a single team and since then, the Becca family has injected cash to buy players and fund training infrastructure. More recently he’s been linked to a new football stadium construction project, involving retail units as well.
Becca also owns the Luxembourg franchises of Quick, a copycat chain of Belgian burger bars modelled on McDonalds. But Luxembourg is a small place, there are more McD franchises in Atlanta, Edinburgh or Sydney than the whole of Luxembourg. All in all, he looks like a shrimp-sized Flavio Briatore, with less hair and a lot more secrecy. No bad thing but I hope the UCI runs a check to make sure all the money is available and committed.
So if it appears the Schleck team is being funded by a wealthy man, we know little else. Willl he put his businesses behind the team? Will he reach out to others, for example national airline Luxair already uses the Schlecks for marketing. The country maybe very small but it’s one of Europe’s wealthiest places and so it’s possible some sponsorship appears rather than being reliant on Mr Becca’s bank account.
But all told, this is a team that’s surprisingly publicity shy. for the moment at least. This time last year the likes of Sky and Radioshack were letting it be known they were coming into the sport and were already trying to whet the appetite of fans and the media alike. With Bjarne Riis having announced his plans for 2011, it’ll soon be time for this team to put its cards on the table.
Failing that, the Luxembourg media suggests that Schleck brothers might join Radioshack if the team does not fall into place for 2011.