By Andrew Hood
Caisse d’Epargne has one Tour de France champion who might not be coming back and another they’d love to sign up.
So it goes for French-sponsored, Spain-based Caisse d’Epargne as it considers its immediate future.
Óscar Pereiro and Alberto Contador are the names that Caisse d’Epargne boss Eusebio Unzue is contemplating right now.
“Óscar isn’t sure if he wants to remain active next year. The disappointment that he had in the Tour was very big,” Unzue told El Diario Navarra. “Signing (Contador) is feasible, but difficult. He has to get out of his contract with Astana and we’d need a second sponsor to be able to do it. We’re looking for a second sponsor now to try.”
Unzue said the Caisse d’Epargne lineup for 2010 will likely include 25 riders, three less than this season.
Confirmed to leave the team are Joaquím Rodríguez (to Katusha), Marlon Pérez and Anthony Charteau while Nicolas Portal, who has been suffering heart problems for the past six months, is also in doubt to continue.
Five other riders are close to signing contracts to stay with the team, including veteran Chente García, Imanol Erviti and Xabier Zandio.
Two other foreign veterans are already signed up for next season, with Christophe Moreau and Marzio Bruseghin set to join the squad. Unzue is also in talks with Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) and Constantin Siutsou (Columbia-HTC).
Pereiro, the 2006 Tour winner who is in the final year of his contract, is reportedly suffering a crisis, and is considering retirement if he cannot rediscover his form quickly.
“I have nothing to hide. My contract is up at Caisse d’Epargne and I have three options: to re-sign, to change teams or to quit,” Pereiro told the Spanish wire service EFE. “I will consider this final option if I cannot find the motivation to keep getting on the bike.”
Pereiro, 32, said he is fully recovered from his horrific crash in the 2008 Tour that left him with broken bones and shattered confidence.
“I worked my ass off since January and I arrived well at the Tour, but when it comes time to respond, I cannot get my heart-rate up,” Pereiro said. “On the stage of the Envalira, I tried to get into an escape to win the stage, but I quickly saw that I wasn’t going well. It wasn’t easy to get off the bike, but at that point, I was fed up. And since then, I haven’t wanted to know anything about the bike.”
Pereiro took himself out of considering for the upcoming Vuelta, saying that if he doesn’t recover the same sensations to train and race, he will live up to his promise to retire.
Concerning the possible arrival of Contador, Pereiro said the Spanish climber wouldn’t regret his decision.
“Contador is a big-time rider and Caisse d’Epargne deserves a rider like him because the team has always had important riders,” he said. “The group and the ambiance is great and the conditions are great for a rider of his level.”