Two of Tinkoff-Saxo riders, Alberto Contador and Mick Rogers, will be able to rest easy that they won’t inadvertently eat clenbuterol contaminated meat this season because the team have a new sponsor – a reputable Italian meat producer called Unicarve.
Both riders have fallen foul of the drug, which is sometimes used boost lean muscle mass in livestock production. Contador, while riding for Astana was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title after clenbuterol was found in his urine. He blamed it on a Spanish steak. Rogers said he failed a test because of dodgy beef consumed at the Tour of Beijing last year.
A new post on team website says: “When Tinkoff-Saxo arrived in Italy after three days of racing in Ireland and Northern Ireland, we were greeted by a huge amount of high quality beef from Unicarve. The Italian company and producer of quality meat build on a foundation of local farmers will sponsor Tinkoff-Saxo with high-value nutrition and proteins in the shape of different carvings of beef chosen by our head chef…”
We’d love to have been a fly on the wall when Rogers and Contador learned of the deal.
Wags on Twitter have pointed to the irony of the sponsorship, but meat producers have a long history of sponsoring cycling teams. Eddy Merckx was sponsored by Molteni, an Italian family business producing cold meats. The family kept a connection to cycling and in 2006 was still sponsoring a top team with its brand of meats, Salmilano.
Geraint Thomas’s (Team Sky) personal sponsor in 2012 was Welsh Beef and Welsh Lamb, and this year it’s the Dairy Collective, a New Zealand gourmet yoghurt producer.
And then there’s Spam. Not strictly a sponsor, but Foska, which makes novelty jerseys, has a jersey featuring the student staple. It’s not really us, but some people probably like it. The jersey that is.