The decision by the organisers of the Vuelta a Espana to exclude Lance Armstrong's RadioShack team from lining up for the August grand tour leaves Philip Gomes scratching his head.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

Ok, RadioShack may be growing a bit long in the tooth for my liking but
their non-selection for the Vuelta a Espana is one of the most baffling
decisions I've seen in a while.

Even Australian football coach Pim Verbeek's reluctance to give Harry Kewell a run against Germany in the World Cup didn't puzzle me as much as this decision.

This is a team that has made its
presence felt in the professional peloton in just its first year, one
that carries the aura of not just Lance Armstrong, but team director
Johann Bruyneel and a host of well performed grand tour riders.

Love
'em or hate 'em, RadioShack's presence is good for the sport.

So
based on just a few of the names Bruyneel put forward, what exactly is
the specific justification of Unipublic for the teams absence in August?
At the moment they aren't telling us.

Is it that Armstrong's
name wasn't put forward on the 15 man long list? Not enough Spaniards?
Maybe they told Unipublic motorized Zimmer frames are a must have for
their ageing crew before they would participate? I'm stumped.

Forget
the agreement between the Vuelta organisers and the UCI for a moment, I
could name several selected teams that wouldn't be able to offer the
kind of tactical racing and excitement RadioShack does week in week out -
and two of them are Spanish.

Johann Bruyneel is similarly
stumped, saying, "I am not only surprised, I am speechless."

"At
first I thought it was a mistake so I called organizer Javier Guillen
for some explanation. He told me that the other teams offered him better
options on a sporting level. I had to ask him to repeat it as I could
not believe this but I heard right: we didn't offer a good enough team,"
Bruyneel went on to say in a released statement on his website.

"I
cannot accept or understand this decision. With Levi Leipheimer,
Andreas Kloden, Chris Horner and Jani Brajkovic we had four potential
Vuelta winners on the roster we sent to Unipublic.

"Our 2010
Team goals were the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain. That's why -
together with the need to perform well in the Tour of California – we
skipped the Tour of Italy this year."

I understand Unipublic's
need to live up to an earlier obligation, but surely the UCI also has a
obligation here - not only in support of quality racing but the
globalised professionalism it insists is essential for the continuing
growth of the sport.

It may be self serving coming from him, but
again I think it's useful to listen to Bruyneel on that front.

"Some
organizers take away the hunger of potential sponsors to invest in our
sport. It is unjust that a new sponsor, coming into cycling with a lot
of enthusiasm, is not rewarded for their financial input. For me it is
hard to explain to my sponsor that 21 other teams are apparently better
than us. Especially when it isn't true. These actions are unfair to our
sponsors as well as a blow to our fans.

"It is high time for
'professional' cycling to become professional. The structure of our
sport needs to change towards a model of other successful professional
sports like soccer, tennis, Formula 1, etc," Bruyneel concluded.

Agreed!
This decision looks amateurish, flies in the face of a professional
outlook for the sport, and isn't even justified based on recent
performances.

RadioShack has had a slow run up to the season,
starting a bit quietly but clearly building to a cohesive grand tour
peak - as seen by Janez Brajkovic's recent win at the Dauphine.

In
fact this places the possible non-selection of the talented 26 year old
for the Tour de France is a different light for me - not understanding
RadioShack's reluctance to name their best young GC rider to their Tour
squad despite his Duphine win.

Maybe the plan all along was to
target a grand tour win for Brajkovic at the Vuelta, a task he now
appears ready for. Unfortunately we'll never know.

Barring a
speedy reversal of this decision by the UCI and Vuelta organisers we can
now expect RadioShack to double down on their efforts in the Tour de
France, knowing their grand tour season sadly ends in Paris on July
25th.