Unpaid RadioShack Nissan Trek Riders Identified

The unpaid riders on RadioShack Nissan Trek, previously anonymous, aren’t domestiques doing the grunt work of shepherding their stars safely through mountain passes and sprint finishes.  It’s the stars: according to Süddeutsche.de, Fabian Cancellara and Frank and Andy Schleck, have been going unpaid or irregularly paid at best.  One rider may have already sued RNT’s parent company, Leopard S.A., for nonpayment of wages.

Regarded in some circles as the dream team of pro cycling, RNT have had their share of problems this year: the Schlecks had a disagreement with directeur sportif Johann Bruyneel.  Bruyneel has opted to stay away from the Tour de France because of the USADA doping charges against him.  Bruyneel plans to go to arbitration in the doping case.  Leopard is also being sued over nonpayment for a catering truck used by the Leopard Trek team for the 2011 Tour.  And Leopard owner Flavio Becca is being investigated in an alleged case of fraud.

Based in Luxembourg, Leopard S.A. supposedly lost over € 7.6 million – over $9.3 million USD last year.  Apparently Luxembourg law requires a special board meeting to resolve large losses.

Leopard spokeman Carlo Rock acknowledged the company had a financial loss and said that it didn’t mean that Leopard or RNT would dissolve.  He denied that riders weren’t being paid, characterizing that as a rumor started by a rival team on the Tour.  He said that Leopard owner Flavio Becca personally guaranteed the riders’ wages, and that RNT was financed for another two years.

In a press release, RNT refuted any notion of Leopard S.A. financial problems and said that an auditor backed up its claim.

At he end of today’s stage, RNT led the Tour de France in the team classification with four riders in the top 15.  Thirty-five-year-old Haimar Zubeldia sits in sixth place, followed by Andréas Klöden, Frank Schleck and American Chris Horner in 11th, 12th and 15th respectively.


3 comments for “Unpaid RadioShack Nissan Trek Riders Identified

  1. July 14, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    PM can you explain to me how Radio Shack, Nissan and Trek wouldn’t have enough money to pay the riders? I don’t know much about the sport … I just don’t understand how those big brands would allow the bad press for such a relatively small amount of cash.

    • July 14, 2012 at 9:44 PM

      Harv, the Schleck brothers and Cancellara are superstars in their sport. Frank Schleck has a couple of stage wins in the Tour. His younger brother Andy finished second in the Tour three times, but in 2010 was promoted to the winner when Alberto Contador failed a doping control. Cancellara is a four-time World Champion and the reigning Olympic Gold medalist in the time trial. He’s won several one-day classics and some Tour stages. These guys can ride.

      But a Tour de France squad features nine riders, so there are six other athletes on the bus. Not to mention the team director, his assistants, any medical personnel, coaches, mechanics, and guys known as soigneurs or “carers.”

      Although they don’t NBA superstar money, they get paid well. One German newspaper estimates that the Schlecks earn approximately EU 2,000,000/year and Cancellara may be paid close to that. The other riders and support staff may not get paid at that level, but all those salaries add up at the end of the day. I’ll take a wild guess and say that RNT are spending around US $6.5 – 7 million on riders’ salaries. Then you add in the cost of of vehicles: a bus to move the athletes, who knows how many automobiles carrying spare bikes and the directeur sportif, and the cost of fuel. We haven’t yet touched on food and lodging costs for this circus.

      It’s unknown how much money Radio Shack, Nissan and Trek pony up for the privilege of being title sponsors, but I’d bet a dollar that the team’s budget exceeds their combined sponsorships. Add in the fact that RNT’s parent company lost US $9.3 million, and it, uh, piques one’s curiosity.

      My sources for these stories are English language and German and Luxembourgish newspapers articles using Google Translate, which is imperfect at best. Hope this helps.

      Anyone out there with insight into pro cycling teams? What do the top teams spend to contest the Tour? I’d love to have your input.

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