Earlier in the season, the Radioshack pro bike team (the one that Lance Armstrong rides for) decided not to ride the Giro d’Italia, the first of the Grand Tours (followed by the Tour de France and the Vuelta/Tour of Spain). The thinking was that it was more important, strategically and for training purposes, to ride the Tour of California instead. This didn’t go over very well with the Giro organizers, who were hoping to see the big crowds that Lance brought them last year. One thing led to another and eventually, the Vuelta excluded the team as well, claiming that Radioshack’s proposed lineup wasn’t strong enough… which is nuts because, while the Radioshack team is lacking in star power this year (Lance is well past his prime, as shown in the Tour de France), it has amazing depth, and it would have been awesome to see Chris Horner riding a Grand Tour as a “protected” rider, capable of landing on the podium.
Momentum sometimes works for you, sometimes against. Right now, it’s against, as the Giro di Lombardia organizers went with the flow and excluded Radioshack from the final big race of the year… even though the team apparently has a contract guaranteeing them entry. Right now it’s in the hands of the CAS, the binding arbitration panel that has the final say in such things. Supposedly the team is asking for damages, but it’s more likely they’re hoping for a compromise that lets them into this final big race.
One thing’s almost certain. Radioshack won’t be a sponsor the second the current contract runs out. They were likely expecting Lance to do better in the TdF, and the lack of exposure due to exclusions from the other races means that they’re just not getting their money’s worth out of it. They can’t be. Add to that the widening allegations regarding doping on Lance’s past teams, and it’s pretty tough to rationalize hanging in there as a sponsor. This could end up like Telekom, which pulled out of sponsorship after that team’s latest doping scandal, but their money stayed… giving Bill Stapleton, the head of the team, time to get things fixed while keeping the team going, eventually morphing into HTC-Columbia. But who would be in charge? I can’t see Johan Bruyneel hanging around the remnants of a team that isn’t going to challenge any of the Grand Tours in 2011.