Team RadioShack is rushing to change its kit and official name ahead of next season after Nissan pulled its title sponsorship. The loss concludes what has been a disastrous season for the Luxembourg-based team of Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara.
The car manufacturer confirmed to Cycling Weekly the blow that first appeared in Luxembourg's Le Quotidien newspaper, but gave no further comment. The RadioShack's press officer and its general manager, Luca Guercilena, were unavailable when Cycling Weekly called for comment.
In a statement sent to Cycling Weekly, Nissan's vice president of corporate communications, David P. Reuter said, "Nissan and the management team of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek cycling have reached an agreement that provides for Nissan's immediate withdrawal as a sponsor of the team, while enabling the team to continue competing in the upcoming 2013 season. Nissan wishes the riders, team management, and professional cycling well in future endeavours."
It is believed Nissan will carry on with its financial support, as contracted, through 2013, even if it asked for its name to be removed. The team must redesign their kits, bus and equipment, search for a new car supplier and apply for a name change with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). The WorldTour season starts with the Tour Down Under, January 22 to 27.
Lance Armstrong used the 2009 Tour Down Under to start his comeback. He brought in electronics retailer RadioShack and reinvigorated Johan Bruyneel's management career. Armstrong retired, but Bruyneel kept going. Even if already linked to the Armstrong investigation, Flavio Becca signed him last year to run his team with the Schleck brothers and Cancellara. RadioShack came along and Nissan signed up.
The house of cards crumbled this season with the FDA and the USADA investigations, and made a big thump with the October 10 Reasoned Decision. The document detailed Armstrong's and Bruyneel's cheating. Bruyneel maintains his innocence and awaits an appeals hearing, but lost his job as RadioShack's General Manager on October 12. Nissan officially left yesterday.
Fränk Schleck's positive test for banned diuretic, Xipamide, in the Tour de France may have helped Nissan's decision to leave. After a third anti-doping hearing this week, Luxembourg's authorities will rule next month.
Brother Andy crashed in the Critérium du Dauphiné and was forced to miss the Tour. The brothers, Cancellara and others also complained of missing payments this season.
The problems highlighted a quiet year which, results-wise, was only saved by Cancellara. He won the Tour's prologue time trial in Liège and held on to the leader's yellow jersey for seven days.
Trek is expected to step up as co-title sponsor in the coming days. The team originally wanted to race this year as RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, but UCI rules only allow two sponsors in the team's name.
Bruyneel on USADA case: No comment until legal proceedings conclude
Bruyneel and RadioShack-Nissan separate following USADA findings
USADA's Armstrong doping report in brief
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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