Haimar Zubeldia says switching to RadioShack and leaving behind compatriot Alberto Contador at Astana is what’s best for him right now.
The veteran Basque all-rounder, who twice finished fifth in the Tour de France, was among 26 riders revealed Monday for Team RadioShack for next season.
Some commentators in Spain might question the move to follow sport director Johan Bruyneel and seven-time Tour champ Lance Armstrong to RadioShack, but Zubeldia says he has to watch out for his own interests right now.
“I am aware that my decision will not be welcomed by everyone,” Zubeldia told Europa Press. “I know that some are trying to put me in the middle of the rivalry between Alberto and Lance, but I have to look out for what’s best for me. I have always followed the orders of the team.”
After riding his entire career with Euskaltel-Euskadi, Zubeldia switched to Astana for 2009 only to find himself caught in the middle of a bitter feud between Contador and Armstrong.
Zubeldia tried to stay out of the line of fire and rode without taking sides, all at the expense of his own personal, GC ambitions at the Tour.
When Zubeldia made the switch to Astana, he was attracted by the chance to ride for Johan Bruyneel. Following the discord between Bruyneel and the Astana brass, Zubeldia remained committed to the Belgian director when he, Armstrong and others marched to create RadioShack.
“When I made the change from Euskaltel to Astana, I signed with the team of Johan Bruyneel,” he said. “Now this group has gone to a new team, and for that, my first option has always been RadioShack. Johan has always shown his confidence and interest in me.”
Now 32, Zubeldia was content to slip into the role of super-domestique and ride under the guidance of Bruyneel.
“I have always admired Bruyneel. He has always led important teams,” he said. “Now, after one year of working with him, I have seen that my vision of him has proven correct. He has a big capacity to direct and a big vision of the race, among other positive things.”