Trek Bicycle Corporation has confirmed that it has acquired the WorldTour licence currently held by Leopard SA, the management company of the Luxembourg-based RadioShack-Leopard team. The Wisconsin-based bicycle manufacturer will join rivals BMC and Cannondale in becoming name sponsor of its own top-flight professional team, starting from next season. The news confirms press reports from Luxembourg earlier this month.
In a press release, Trek said that it would be looking to keep a number of existing RadioShack-Leopard riders - it didn't name names, but it has been reported that the team will be built around Fabian Cancellara, winner of the Flanders-Roubaix double this season, the second time he has achieved that feat.
Luca Guercilena, recruited as general manager in the wake of the departure of Johann Bruyneel, is to continue in his current role.
Trek also said that it is in negotiations with "several marquee athletes" adding that it would announce new signings "soon" - under current rules, the earliest that can happen is 1 August.
We're thrilled to be able to reach this agreement with Leopard," commented Joe Vadeboncoeur, vice president of Trek.
"The team has established a great foundation of staff and athletes. Great Athletes Ride Trek is something we are incredibly passionate about and we are looking forward to everything the future holds with this new team.
"We will have the ability to create more and better marketing content.
"The riders' nationalities represent our major markets and become an army of ambassadors at events all over the world.
"We can have better integration into new product development and the ability for hospitality and activation at events.”
RadioShack-Leopard was born through the merger ahead of the 2012 season of what had been the US-based RadioShack-Nissan team, initially set up around Lance Armstrong, and Luxembourg's Leopard-Trek, built around Andy and Frank Schleck as well as Fabian Cancellara.
While it has enjoyed some notable victories such as those Classics wins by Cancellara, it has had plenty of problems including a reported breakdown in relations last year between the Schleck brothers and team management, Andy's long recovery from injury, and Frank's ban after failing a doping control at last year's Tour de France.
Team owner Becca, who has also reportedly been the subject of financial investigations by authorities in Luxembourg, commented: "I am proud to hand over this project to the people at Trek Bicycle, who have been a very dependable and loyal partner over the past three years.
“When we started in the summer of 2010 [the team first raced in 2011] we had a blank canvas in our hands, a puzzle.
"Now, three seasons later, we have a team that has won some of the biggest races of cycling with Fabian Cancellara and put two Schleck brothers from Luxembourg together on the podium of the Tour de France.
"I am also especially pleased to have launched the professional career of a young talented rider like Bob Jungels and that the team has become a major player in professional cycling.
"I believe cycling has entered a new era, in which a bike manufacturer like Trek Bicycle takes on full ownership of a team. I have taken a lot of pleasure in running this project and I wish the team and all its members a bright future," he added.
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.