Robbie McEwen and Robbie Hunter have signed for the American RadioShack team after they were left high and dry with the implosion of the Australian Pegasus Sports squad earlier this week.
RadioShack team founder and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong announced the news via his Twitter microblogging account on Thursday night, “Hey @mcewenrobbie and @RobbieHunter, welcome to @TeamRadioShack!!” he said. A statement announcing the pair’s signing was released on the RadioShack team’s website.
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“The two Robbie’s fit perfectly in our group, which is a mixture of experienced and young riders,” RadioShack manager Johan Bruyneel said in the statement.
“I feel sad for the riders and staff of the Pegasus project, but most of the riders deserve to race at the highest level of professional cycling. I am happy to have been able to offer two of the guys that opportunity. Moreover, we can really use both riders; they are real finishers and winners.
“They are both very fast and don’t need a real sprinter’s train to bring them to the last kilometre. They are ‘self-sufficient’ and will also be a wealth of knowledge for our young riders.”
McEwen said: “It is a relief that I have secured a contract with Team RadioShack, obviously one of the best teams in the world where I can ride at the ProTour level in what I’m planning to be my last year as a professional.”
Australian McEwen and South African Hunter were left without a viable professional contract after the Pegasus Sports team failed to first secure a top-level ProTeam licence and then a second-tier Professional Continental registration from the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). A lack of first or second tier licence effectively ruled the team out from any top-level races.
The UCI revealed on Thursday that the failure of the team to qualify for both ProTeam and Pro Continental status was down to a lack of financial guarantees from team management. The UCI described the ambitious team set-up headed by Chris White as ‘rather unprofessional’ and having ‘serious shortcomings’.
McEwen is one of the most successful sprinters of all time, with three Tour de France green jersey to his name (2002, 2004, 2006). He has won 12 stages apiece of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia along with numerous wins at Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse, Tour Down Under, Paris-Brussels, Eneco Tour and many more. McEwen rode for Katusha for the 2009-2010 seasons.
Fellow sprinter Hunter won the 2004 sprint classification at the Tour de Suisse and became the first South African to win a stage of the Tour de France in 2007. He joins RadioShack from the Garmin-Transitions team.
RadioShack’s sponsorship of the US-based team managed by long-time Armstrong collaborator Bruyneel is due to expire at the end of the 2011 season.
Armstrong’s final race outside the USA will be the Tour Down Under in January, a race that Robbie McEwen will very likely ride for RadioShack.
On Monday, it was announced that Belgian sprinter Gert Steegmans would leave RadioShack and re-join Quick Step after an indifferent season at the US squad.