Vuelta a Espana

Riders worried about possible ‘Leopard-Shack’ fusion

Fulgsang said Leopard-Trek riders have heard nothing from team staff about an alleged merger

2011 Vuelta a España, stage 13, Jakob Fulgsang
Fulgsang at the Vuelta Friday. Photo: Andrew Hood

Fulgsang said Leopard-Trek riders have heard nothing from team staff about an alleged merger

PONFERRADA, Spain (VN) – Rumors continue to swirl around a possible merger between RadioShack and Leopard-Trek, something that’s causing uneasiness among riders on both teams.

RadioShack boss Johan Bruyneel would not take the bait when queried by journalists at the Vuelta a España about a possible fusion of the two teams, first reported by L’Equipe and La Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this week.

“No comment. I will neither confirm nor deny the reports,” Bruyneel told reporters. “I will talk about the Vuelta all you want.”

Leopard-Trek officials have still not publicly commented on reported talks of Bruyneel stepping in to take over management of the team and bringing the RadioShack and Nissan team sponsorships with him.

When asked by VeloNews what he’s heard from Leopard-Trek management, Jakob Fulgsang formed a zero with his finger and thumb.

“Not a thing,” he said. “Of course, we’ve heard the rumors, but we haven’t heard anything from the team. There are some guys on the team who are a little bit scared about what’s going to happen. There are all these rumors, so there has to be something to it.”

That lack of information is worrying to riders on both squads, simply because the numbers do not add up if the two teams join forces.

With a cap of 30 riders for a ProTeam, some could face the unsavory possibility of losing a contract for next year if the two teams merge. Bruyneel reportedly has 13 riders under contract for 2012 while Leopard-Trek has a full roster of 27.

Fuglsang said the rumors of the talks have caught the riders of Leopard-Trek off guard, especially among the core group of riders who left Saxo Bank-Sungard to help form the new, Luxembourg-backed squad.

“If something happens, there’s not enough space for everyone,” Fuglsang said. “It’s a bit sad because we wanted to build something special here and everyone on the team (in 2011) was selected because we could all fit in together.”

Fulgsang also said the rumor talk comes as a distraction during the heat of the battle for the Vuelta, where he fighting for a spot in the top 10.

“All the riders here are riding as hard as they can for me. They’re doing a super job and I am thankful for that,” he said. “That’s not so easy when some of them are worried about the future.”

It remains to be seen if the alleged merger talks come to fruition, but it’s certainly causing for some nervous days for riders and staff.