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.