Lelangue aims to relaunch Phonak

New Phonak boss John Lelangue has admitted he has taken a risk by leaving ASO for the troubled Swiss

New Phonak boss John Lelangue has admitted he has taken a risk by leaving ASO for the troubled Swiss
PICTURE BY TDWSPORT.COM After ending his long spell with Tour de France organisers ASO a few weeks ago to step into the breach at Phonak, John Lelangue is enjoying his first few days as the Swiss team's new manager in Qatar. And that new era could not have got off to a better start than with Robert Hunter's victory in Saturday's Doha International. Speaking to our colleague Philippe Van Holle of La Dernire Heure in Qatar prior to the eponymous tour where he was race director last year, Lelangue admitted that the decision to leave ASO had been a tough one to make, especially as he has just a one-year contract with Phonak. But, for the moment at least, he has few regrets. "I have received offers to return to the peloton a number of times in recent seasons," said Lelangue, who worked as a directeur sportif with the Belgian CGER-Eddy Merckx team before taking up his post at ASO. "Until now I have always refused because I loved my job with ASO so much and [Tour boss] Jean-Marie Leblanc is someone I really appreciate a lot and really got on with. "I always hoped that I would get the chance to join a pro team again, but I wanted full control. Phonak's proposal gave me this, and I didn't hesitate to accept it. However, it is without doubt the riskiest thing I have done in my career - I've only got a contract for a year and the team's image has been scarred by the affairs that we all know about, and we now have to restore it." Lelangue is one of the best-connected men in the pro cycling game. Son of former pro and team manager Robert, who now splits his time between management at the Merckx bike factory and being Leblanc's Tour driver, the junior Lelangue is also a friend since childhood with Merckx's son, Axel. Lelangue told DH that he kept Leblanc informed of all approaches for his services, and even asked advice from the Tour boss. "He's always spoken plainly, thinking only about the best thing for my future. When I have had important decisions to take I have always consulted the same three people: Jean-Marie, Eddy [Merckx] and my father." Lelangue admitted that Leblanc's decision to step down from his current role in the coming months had played a part in his own decision to take up Phonak's offer, but stressed that he has not closed the door on a return to ASO in the future. However, he added that he would not be heading straight back to that door if the Phonak project dissolves after just one season. "For the Swiss team to stay in cycling beyond 2005 it will be necessary for all of the staff to prove that it is viable and that there is a future. Andy Rihs, the boss of Phonak, has already done plenty of excellent work, and it is now up to us to prove ourselves worthy of him."
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