RadioShack manager Johan Bruyneel was left speechless after learning that his Lance Armstrong-led team was not invited to the Tour of in Spain September.
Bruyneel, who has managed every team in which Armstrong has competed since his comeback from beating cancer in 1998, is set to lead the American in his quest for an eighth Tour de France yellow jersey next month.
However Bruyneel’s aims of sending a competitive team to the ‘Vuelta’ in September were ended when organisers decided not to offer one of six ‘wildcard’ invitations to the American outfit.
Sixteen teams had already qualified in accordance with a 2008 agreement between race organisers and the International Cycling Union (UCI).
However RadioShack were stunned to find out they had not been offered one of six invitations – handed out instead to Andalucia, Cervelo Test Team, Garmin-Transitions, Team Sky, Katusha, and Xacobeo.
“I am not only surprised, I am speechless,” Bruyneel said from the Tour of Switzerland. “At first I thought it was a mistake so I called organizer Javier Guillen for some explanation. He told me that the other teams offered him better options on a sporting level.
“I cannot accept or understand this decision. With Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden, Chris Horner and Jani Brajkovic we had four potential Vuelta winners on the roster we sent to (race organisers) Unipublic.”
Both Armstrong and Bruyneel were recently accused by former team rider Floyd Landis of being involved in doping practices throughout much of the American superstar’s career, a charge both men have categorically denied. And while there is no indication that those allegations, which are set to be probed by federal investigators in the United States, played a role in the Tour of Spain decision Bruyneel said it is time to take a stand.
The Belgian said he now wants to “fight for the interests of the cycling teams” to make sure race organisers do not “abuse” the power they have when it comes to choosing teams for their races.
“There is an abuse of power. Some organisers take away the hunger of potential sponsors to invest in our sport,” added Bruyneel.
“For me it is hard to explain to my sponsor that 21 other teams are apparently better than us. Especially when it isn’t true. These actions are unfair to our sponsors as well as a blow to our fans.”
© AFP 2010