Unzue asks Caisse d’Epargne riders to wait until August 15th before deciding their 2011 plans
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Unzue asks Caisse d’Epargne riders to wait until August 15th before deciding their 2011 plans

by Conal Andrews at 7:00 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Spaniard may be close to securing new backing

Jose Ivan GutierrezWith the team’s future still uncertain and riders working on alternative plans, Eusebio Unzué has requested those currently competing with the Caisse d’Epargne team to hold on for a few more days before making decisions to leave.

Unzué has said that the situation should be much more straightforward by August 15th, when the sponsorship situation for next season will apparently be clarified.

The team has been either fully or partly backed by Caisse d’Epargne for the past five seasons, but the French bank has indicated that it no longer wants to stay on board. It is thought likely that the long-running question marks over team leader Alejandro Valverde may have contributed to that, as his links to Operación Puerto and eventual suspension led to a constant stream of negative publicity.

Unzué has been trying for months to get new backing in place but with no major news forthcoming in that time, some riders have already indicated that they will depart. The Clasica San Sebastian winner Luis León Sánchez has already decided to go to Rabobank, but hasn’t yet announced the news. The sprinter José Joaquín Rojas is expected to move to Garmin Transitions, although that too has not been officially confirmed.

The French contingent of the team is also expected to leave, according to Diario de Navarra. Christophe Moreau will retire, while Arnold Jeanesson will go to Française des Jeux, Arnaud Coyot to Saur, Mathieu Perget to Ag2r La Mondiale and Mathieu Drujon to Aubervilliers.

Unzue is understood to be working with a block of twelve riders, and would build a new team around them. These are riders with existing contracts, with the most experienced of those being Rubén Plaza, Marzio Bruseghin and José Iván Gutiérrez, plus the former Tour de France King of the Mountains, Mauricio Soler. They would be joined by the younger quartet of Rui Costa, Andrey Amador, Ángel Madrazo and Rigoberto Uran, who has also been linked to Team Sky.

There are also four riders who have committed to joining if there is a sponsor. Two of those have been named, Beñat Intxausti (Euskaltel) and the Belarusian Branislau Smoilau (Quick Step).

The decisions of the other riders should be known after the 15th. David Arroyo and Vasyli Kyrienka will otherwise go to Astana, Juan José Cobo and Imanol Erviti have been speaking to Euskaltel, while the plans of Chente García, Pablo Lastras, David López, Alberto Losada, Luis Pasamontes, Fran Pérez and Xabier Zandio are not yet known.

The team has a very long history in the sport, starting in 1980 under the Reynolds name. Between 1990 and 2000 it was known as Banesto, then in the years since the title changed to iBanesto.com, Illes Balears-Banesto, Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne and Caisse d’Epargne. Another reinvention is due in 2010, proving Unzue can get backing in place.

In that time it has taken some of the biggest races in the sport, including five Tours with Miguel Indurain (1991 – 1995) and one with Pedro Delgado, in 1988.

Unzué has been on the edge before, and can draw on that experience. When the Illes Balears-Banesto backing ended, it wasn’t until October of that year when he had something definite in place. This time round, it appears that something could be decided by this Sunday and so, until then, he wants the riders to give him a few more days.


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