Veteran Spanish domestique Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack) told Cycling Weekly that he is pleased that the fusion between RadioShack and Leopard is going ahead but expressed a certain degree of concern over what would happen to the riders.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly at the Vuelta stage start in La Olmeda on Tuesday, Zubeldia said “We’re creating a super-team and its going to be a reference point for cycling across the board in the next few years.”
“I don’t know much about it, although I’ve spoken to Johan [Bruyneel] and I know they want to try to fit all of the pieces together. The only question is how, although we’ve got the whole of the winter to sort that out.”
“It’s good for cycling because we’re creating a strong team, and on a personal level I’m looking forward to working with Andy and Frank Schleck. It’s a new challenge, because although I’ve known them for ages, I’ve never raced in the same team as they have.”
At the same time, though, in a global context, Zubeldia sees it as a sign that all is not well in cycling when the number of sponsors is shrinking – effectively forcing this fusion to come about.
“Two teams are being squeezed into one, and we’re in the middle of an economic recession and it’s not like there are hundreds of sponsors out there.”
“We’ve lost one team [HTC-Highroad] and gained another [GreenEdge] but this [fusion] means we’re one team down. So there are fewer jobs out there for cyclists.”
“I know I’ve got a contract [for 2012] and I’m all right, but I know a lot of other team-mates won’t have the chance to continue [with the team] and that’s disturbing.”
“At the same time, on a personal level I’m going on [in RadioShack-Nissan-Trek] and I’m very pleased that they’re counting on me in what’s going to be a really important team.”
As for the race, in which Zubeldia is lying 32nd overall, today’s stage of the Vuelta is all but certain to end in a bunch sprint.
Although there is a tricky section with around five kilometres to go as the race circles through the finish town of Haro, a long straightaway on a motorway ending with a sharp bend at 1.5kms to go should enable the bunch to reform. Could Peter Sagan (Liquigas) get his third stage in his first ever Grand Tour?
Leopard-Trek and RadioShack teams will merge for 2012