Vuelta: No room for Phonak

Not everyone was happy to hear about Phonak getting into the ProTour, with the Vuelta voicing concer


Not everyone was happy to hear about Phonak getting into the ProTour, with the Vuelta voicing concer

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM While a general feeling of good will has rushed around the professional cycling scene following Tuesday’s announcement of Phonak’s admission into the ProTour, one major race organiser appears none too thrilled with the news that they will have to accommodate another team. Although a ProTour licence should be enough to give Phonak access to every one of the circuit’s 27 races this season, the Vuelta’s sporting director, Victor Cordero, has begged to differ. Speaking to AS, Cordero said that the Court for Arbitration in Sport’s overturning of Phonak’s exclusion from the ProTour is not binding on his race. “We signed a protocol with the International Cycling Union on December 1 in which we guaranteed to accept the 19 ProTour teams and we kept two invitations for ourselves. If we accept Phonak we are left with just one invitation for three Spanish teams [Comunitat Valenciana, Relax and Kaiku]. And for security and logistical reasons we can’t have more than 21 teams in the Vuelta,” Cordero explained. Contacted by AS, the still exultant Phonak team manager John Lelangue was surprised to hear the Vuelta’s position. “I have spoken with [Tour de France boss] Jean-Marie Leblanc and he told me there will be no problems about us riding the Tour. I still haven’t spoken to the Giro and Vuelta, but if they are ProTour races then it is logical that they will have to admit us. It’s just a question of talking it through, but if the Vuelta does not want us then that will not be a problem,” said Lelangue. Lelangue confirmed that Phonak company boss Andy Rihs was set to fly to Qatar on Wednesday to discuss the team’s new programme and possible new signings with the team at the Tour of Qatar. He also stated that Phonak would not consider re-signing former team leaders Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Perez, nor former directeur sportif Alvaro Pino. In a statement on Phonak’s website, Rihs said: “We were always convinced that our team belonged in the ProTour based on its talent. Now the legal hurdles have been removed, and we can demonstrate that athletically at the highest level.” He also thanked his his lawyers, Alessandro Celli and Lucien Valloni, “for their professional and successful effort.” Perez, who was released by Phonak after testing positive for blood doping, has said he feels the decision to allow his former team into the ProTour is “just”. However, he described his disappointment at being, together with Hamilton, Pino and former team boss Urs Freuler, “the only ones who have missed out on all this.” Last year’s Vuelta runner-up said he is training hard but still unsure of his future in the sport as he awaits a decision on a possible suspension.