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Originally set up to enable Michael Rasmussen to continue with his career and then persisting after the rider was handed a two year suspension, the Christina Watches-Kuma team has announced that it will cease to exist at the end of the season.
General manager Klaus Hembo has laid the blame for the team’s cessation firmly at the feet of the Tour of Denmark and the Danish Cycling Union (DCU), saying that both played a big factor in the decision.
“We have never concealed the fact that participation in the Tour of Denmark is a prerequisite for investment in a cycling team interconnected with cycling team sponsors, including our own business,” said Hembo in a statement circulated Wednesday. “Our sincere interest in the sport can not be denied. Both Christina and I have over the past four years had a profound interest in the sport and followed the results from China, Serbia, Portugal and of course especially in Denmark.
“The first two seasons we were invited to the Tour of Denmark. We are not the last two years and it is a major reason that we stop while the going is good.”
On June 26th last year the team said it was ‘highly surprised’ not to be selected for the Tour of Denmark. It pointed out that it was the country’s highest-ranked Continental team.
At the time it was ranked 39th with 1099 points; Team Cult Energy was 71st with 376 points, while Blue Water Cycling was 79th on 302. Concordia Forsikring Riwal was 98th on 218 and Team Tre-For was 135th with 90 points.
Danish Cycling Union director Jesper Worre justified the decision on the grounds that other teams had more riders from that country. “One of the reasons that we take Danish Continental teams in the Tour of Denmark is to give Danish cycling talent the chance to ride international race at a very high level,” he said at the time. “So this is obviously also a factor that plays into the selection process.”
Team Cult Energy, Blue Water Cycling and Team Tre-For were composed entirely of Danish riders, while nine of the fourteen riders from Team Concordia Forsikring-Riwal were from that country.
In contrast, Christina Watches was a more international squad, with ten of its fifteen riders for 2013 being foreign. The controversial German rider Stefan Schumacher was responsible for the bulk of the team’s 1099 points, having 583 to his credit. Danish rider Martin Pedersen was the next most successful with 171.
At the time Christina Watches said that it would consider its future. It decided to persist in the sport, but when it was passed over for selection again this year it appears that was the final straw.
“If you want both support and feed Danish cycling, it is no use to obstruct the people and companies who have a sincere desire to put money in the sport,” said Hembo in the latest statement. “That we have not received an invitation to the Tour of Denmark in the last two years has in our view been an unjustified and unnecessary spanner in the works of our project.”
He added that what he termed a ‘rude letter’ from Danish Cycling Union coach Lars Bonde was also a major factor.
According to Hembo, that letter stated: “We have to coach the group in the DCU as part of an overall assessment of our supposed future external partners. We assessed the various teams individually, and in relation to CWK [Christina Watches-Kuma] decided that looking forward to season 2015 we will advise young Danish riders not to sign a contract with CWK.”
Hembo said that he immediately called the DCU director and that he confirmed that both the board and the management agreed with the coach.
He said that this move by the DCU to dissuade Danish riders from being part of the team had in turn a knock-on implication for the chances of riding the Tour of Denmark again.
“As having Danish talents on the cycling team is one of the DCU’s basic requirements for participating in the Tour of Denmark, this was a clear de facto message that again in 2015 we could expect to not get the invitation to the Tour of Denmark,” he said. “We will not ride for another year to get a rejection from the DCU in August.”
The team took three victories this season, with Schumacher winning stage three of the Tour de Beauce and stage three of the Szlakiem Grodow Piastowskich and Asbjorn Kragh Andersen netting stage two of the latter.