First the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy), now the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain). The Johan Bruyneel-Lance Armstrong-led Team Radio Shack is getting the cold shoulder from the big races. The question is why.
Bruyneel acted nonplussed after the Giro snub, saying the team hadn’t planned on riding anyway. The Vuelta rejection came out of the blue, though: “I am not only surprised, I am speechless,” Bruyneel was quoted as saying. No one who follows the effervescent and voluble TRS manager on Twitter finds “speechless” a credible adjective, but the point was well taken.
You have to wonder if there isn’t something else going on here. With Bruyneel and Lance implicated by Floyd Landis as a doping cabal, and with both under investigation in the U.S. and abroad, is a message being sent? Might the message be, put bluntly, to prove that you’re bringing a clean game to the event?
Bruyneel said he was told TRS was not asked to Spain because “other teams offered better options on a sporting level.” Bruyneel said he interpreted this to mean TRS was not considered competitive enough. That’s not how we read it. If the director had meant competitive, he would have said so. We interpret “sporting” as “fair,” “above reproach,” “ethical.”
In any case, Bruyneel’s defiant response may not have been the best advisable, given the current cloud over TRS. He and whatever PR handlers he answers to might want to look to the BP fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico for pointers. You’re not going to win any sympathy whining and sputtering under pressure. Nor are you going to endear yourself to event organizers with pointless threats that skirt the real issue.
We may have to live with speculation for awhile. But if there is anything to be read between the lines, it’s that Bruyneel and Lance — whether fairly or not — are considered untrustworthy by at least some influential segments of the cycling establishment.