Rihs: ‘Phonak designed for ProTour’

Phonak team boss Andy Rihs spoke to procycling at the start of the Tour of Qatar's final stage on Fr


Phonak team boss Andy Rihs spoke to procycling at the start of the Tour of Qatar’s final stage on Fr

PICTURE BY TDWSPORT.COM (click for larger image) When Andy Rihs received a fax from the Court for Arbitration in Sport on Tuesday saying that his Phonak team’s appeal for unfair dismissal from the ProTour had been successful, the first thing he did was call new team manager John Lelangue. “I was very pleased. More than pleased, in fact, so I got on the phone to John, who was driving the team car on the second stage here at the Tour of Qatar, right away to tell him the good news,” Rihs, who flew out to Qatar on Wednesday evening to help Lelangue put together a new race programme for the season, told procycling. “This team was designed to ride in the ProTour. We have some great riders – climbers, sprinters, time triallists – and I think that we’ll be particularly strong in the team time trials at the grand tours,” Rihs continued. “Had we not got in the ProTour, it would have been like [soccer team] Real Madrid playing in the second division.” Asked if he was concerned by the Tour of Spain’s reluctance to accept Phonak as one of its 21 teams in September’s race, which, with the now 20 ProTour teams, would leave them with just one wildcard place to invite one of the smaller Spanish teams, Rihs replied: “The last time I looked, the grand tours, including the Vuelta, were part of the ProTour, and so they’re obliged to accept us. But I’ve not got any more news on that. John is in the process of talking to a number of race organisers so that we can revise our race programme.” One decision made by Rihs at the start of the season was to put everyone in the team on a one-year contract. Was this because he wasn’t able to guarantee that the team would continue beyond 2005 without a ProTour place? “I was pretty confident that everything would be fine – that, once our case had been looked at, there were no grounds for us to be kicked out of the ProTour. But it’s true that everyone has been on a one-year contract for this season, because I didn’t want to cheat anyone pretending I knew that we’d eventually get in, and everyone accepted that,” said Rihs. “The biggest victory in all this has been keeping the team together.”