Team presentations normally represent the renewal of a squad heading into the new season. For Saxo Bank however, it signifies the beginning of a new challenge before competition has even begun. As Susanne Horsdal discovered, the Danish town of Vedbæk was a quiet setting for the start of Bjarne Riis' latest battle.
Outside hotel Marina in Vedbæk – about 25 kilometres from Copenhagen – flags with the names Saxo Bank and IT Factory were waving slowly in the wind. Inside, everything from back walls to the riders' t-shirts said the same. It was exactly as it was supposed to be for a team presentation.
One thing was wrong, however. On Monday morning news broke that the company IT Factory had gone bankrupt, with the immediate effect that Bjarne Riis is left with only one main sponsor about a month before the new season opens... talk about bad timing.
"Obviously this was supposed to have been a different press conference," began team manager Bjarne Riis, who had been informed of IT Factory's collapse on Sunday evening. "This is also news to us, but the team continues. We'll work it out and that's the message everybody has been given."
Despite this major blow, which leaves the team at least four million Euros short of its annual budget, Riis insisted that the ambition is still to be the world's best cycling team.
"Like any other company we'll take a close look at our budgets but we still have a fantastic product. We have the best cycling team in the world and the rider's salaries won't be touched. It's important that they can all keep motivated and focus on their job. Luckily the team wasn't completely full and I did have a few riders in my sight but now that's out of the question," explained Riis.
Read the full news feature on Saxo Bank's predicament on Cyclingnews.