Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen and South Africa’s Robbie Hunter have managed to secure a new team for the 2011 following the UCI’s decision not to award a Professional Continental licence to Pegasus Sports, which they were due to ride for next season, with Team RadioSchack confirming that it had signed the pair.
According to a press release from the US ProTeam, negotiations between it and the two riders “were settled promptly with both riders keen on joining the team of Manager Johan Bruyneel and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.”
“The two Robbies fit perfectly in our group, which is a mixture of experienced and young riders,” said Johan Bruyneel. “I feel sad for the riders and staff of the Pegasus project, but most of the riders deserve to race at the highest level of professional cycling. I am happy to have been able to offer two of the guys that opportunity.
“Moreover, we can really use both riders; they are real finishers and winners. They are both very fast and don’t need a real sprinter’s train to bring them to the last kilometer. They are ‘self-sufficient’ and will also be a wealth of knowledge for our young riders.”
Bruyneel continued: “We were interested in both riders and they were interested in racing for our team. It still took some days to finalise the agreements as our budget for 2011 was almost closed. We had to redo our homework and we will have to economize on some other aspects but it will be worth it.
“Robbie McEwen is not the youngest guy in the peloton, but in our team we know exactly what riders are capable of at a certain age. Robbie proved this year that he is still able to win ProTour races. Moreover, I count on him to help our very young, talented riders in the team find their way in the peloton.
“As far as Robbie Hunter is concerned, we welcome him in the Team a year later than planned as we had we wanted him for Team RadioShack at the end of 2009. Finally our patience paid off.”
For McEwen, aged 38 and a three-time winner of the green jersey in the points competition at the Tour de France, joining RadioShack means that his career will not be brought to a premature end by the Pegasus Sports debacle.
“It is a relief that I have secured a contract with Team RadioShack, obviously one of the best teams in the world where I can ride at the ProTour level in what I’m planning to be my last year as a professional,” he explained.
“When it became obvious that I had to look for another team, Team RadioShack really was my first choice. That’s why I contacted Lance. Afterwards Johan Bruyneel offered me the environment I was looking for. I am happy and grateful. I still know and believe that I am one of the fastest sprinters in the world.
“The young guys like Cavendish, Farrar or Greipel are tough to beat but I know that I am still amongst that group of elite sprinters. I still have a lot to offer. I just don’t want to ride one more year just to ride along in the bunch. I want to perform well and go away on a high.”
The Australian, who as reported on road.cc yesterday was also involved in a dramatic incident on a yacht at the weekend when he helped save his fellow passengers from the effects of carbon monoxide gas, has continued to put the training miles in despite the uncertainty surrounding his prospective employers.
“I wanted to get in shape for the Tour Down Under but I also want to perform well in the whole season, whether it is for Down Under, the Giro, the Tour or wherever and with a big goal: the World Championships in Copenhagen.”
The 33-year-old Hunter, the first South African to ride in the Tour de France and to win a stage in cycling’s biggest race, also expressed delight to have secured a new contract so quickly.
“I am happy to have found a team so soon after the collapse of the Pegasus Sports project. The Australians really had a nice project. I was looking forward to being part of their Team, but for me it was not an option to race on a continental team. I am still too ambitious.”
He continued: “Team RadioShack suits me very well. As the Team didn’t have many sprinters I will have my place over there. The Team Directors know exactly what I am worth in a team. I’ve proved in the past that I have no problem sacrificing my chances for another rider, as I did last year for Tyler Farrar. Also in 2011 the Team can count on me and I know that they will give me the opportunity to do my own sprints too.”
Hunter, who last year won two stages of the Tour of Murcia, added: “Every year I win my races. I will continue winning. I will be ready for the stage races and the classics. I like the spirit of Team RadioShack and I know a lot of the guys, especially Gregory Rast as he is my regular training mate.”
McEwen, meanwhile, will figure in the Team RadioShack squad for next month’s Santos Tour Down Under, which takes place in and around Adelaide from 18-23 January. The full team that will contest the season’s first major race, as well as the Cancer Council Classic that precedes it, comprises Lance Armstrong, Manuel Cardoso, Ben Hermans, Markel Irizar, Robbie McEwen, Gregory Rast and Sébastien Rosseler.
McEwen and Hunter join the Svein Tuft and Dominique Cornu, who are respectively moving to SpiderTech and Topsport Vlaanderen, in securing a team for 2011. Other riders initialy contracted to ride for Pegasus who will now have to secure alterative employment include the Australian Darren Lapthorne, previously with Rapha Condor Sharp, the former Milram rider Christian Knees, and the exciting 20-year-old Australian prospect, Rohan Dennis.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.