Phonak’s desire to re-establish themselves amongst the sport’s biggest teams has led to the replacem
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE The management of the Phonak team has undergone some radical reconstruction, with figureheads Urs Freuler and Alvaro Pino leaving the team by mutual consent. The pair’s positions had been under threat as a result of the three high-profile doping cases within the Phonak team involving Tyler Hamilton, Santiago Perez and Oscar Camenzind. Largely as a result of these cases, Phonak’s application for the ProTour was rejected in December. Team manager Freuler has been replaced by John Lelangue, a 34-year-old Belgian who has spent the last four seasons working as the deputy competitions director at ASO, organisers of the Tour de France. Lelangue will also take over as managing director of the team’s operating company, ARcycling AG. In a statement on the Phonak website, the Swiss team said that Phonak company boss Andy Rihs had “decided to hire a new management to lead the Phonak Cycling Team into a sustained, secure, successful and ethical future. Rihs is convinced that in John Lelangue an ideal fit could be found for the position of team manager.” Rihs is hoping that Lelangue’s reputation and connections will enable Phonak to gain wild card entries to many of the ProTour events, notably the Tour de France. “I have known John Lelangue for several years. He makes sure the team will quickly get more international attention, respect, and recognition,” said Rihs. As well as spending the past decade with the Tour organisation, Lelangue is also a registered cycle coach and speaks five languages. Phonak’s statement also indicated that the hearing aids company is looking to scale down its interest in cycling, but not without first finding a principal sponsor for the team, into which it is pumping six million euros this season. The statement said: “Lelangue will also prepare for the 2006 season with two clear objectives: obtaining a UCI ProTour licence and finding a new main sponsor. Lelangue is confident that these very ambitious objectives can be achieved.” Lelangue, whose father Robert coached Eddy Merckx in the 1960s, said that Phonak will sign up to the ProTour’s recently agreed ethical code and stated his goal of getting the team back among the world’s best. “After 10 years with the Tour de France I very much look forward to this challenge. I am taking over a team that is among international cycling’s absolute top teams in terms of riders, organisation, and financial background.” Rihs paid tribute to the work put in by both Freuler and Pino. “I very much regret that Urs Freuler and Alvaro Pino, who have become my personal friends during our many years of professional collaboration, have to go now. In the past three years they have built a strong, well organized team.” Phonak have appealed to the Court for Arbitration in Sport against the rejection of their ProTour application. A decision in the case is expected by mid-January.