The news that Radioshack and Leopard-Trek are “merging” confirms Flavio Becca’s interest in cycling is not on the same level as Swiss billionaire Andy Rihs, although that’s been clear from the start, just not so obvious.
Luxembourg’s Becca has decided to invest in pro cycling and wants to have a team with sponsors paying the wage bill and operating expenses rather than funding things from his bank account.
It’s been easy to snipe at Leopard this year as a nearly team. Legendary cycling manager Cyrille Guimard said it took him three to five years to make a team start working; Team Sky needed a season to learn the ropes. So it feels impatient to shake things up so suddenly, you wonder if the newly merged squad goes back to the beginning again.
Something had been up with the Radioshack team, riders heading for the exit and no replacements. I still can’t see the interest for the US electronics retailer in funding a team that spends 90% of its time in Europe given that star attraction Lance Armstrong has retired. For sure, publicity in California, Utah and Colorado represent a marketing return but this success in the US might be hard to repeat. I suspect Nissan and Trek are happier.
Even assuming Radioshack was on the way out, the way this happens in September is pretty sudden. This evening’s press release leaves more questions than answers:
- How long was this in the pipeline?
- Is Flavio Becca the driving force behind this? Don’t underestimate the influence of Frank Schleck here and it’d be interesting to know if Johan Bruyneel has a hired hand or a dealmaker.
- How can a team be formed just 10 weeks away from the UCI’s Licence Commission review?
- How can teams with ProTeam status vaporise within less than 11 months?
- Which team’s licence will go forward for 2012 (ie who owns the team?)
- Two big teams aren’t really merging, this is the combo of two shrunken team so what about the riders and staff getting excluded?
- Just how much “new money” is coming from the sponsors?
- When will we get more detail?
Either way this creates a strange situation where Radioshack looks to have been “wound down” for some time with several riders not seeing their contracts renewed in order to shrink the squad down to the size needed to merge with Leopard-Trek. Mergers are normally a means of combining assets, not shedding them.