Saxo Bank team manager predicts a special Tour de France rivalry with Andy Schleck
Alberto Contador and Bjarne Riis are convinced they can work successfully together in 2011 when the three-time Tour de France winner rides with Riis’ Saxo-Bank SunGard cycling team.
The two held a press conference in Riis’ home town of Herning on Friday night before the Herning Criterium and talked confidently about their goals and ambitions for 2011. The criterium was won by Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank), ahead of Michael Rasmussen, while Contador finished in the main peloton.
“Saxo Bank is a good and serious team, and that’s what I need to have around me,” Contador told Feltet.dk
“In addition, Bjarne is important too because of the philosophy he has on the team. I think next year will be really good for me and for the team. I see this change as an important step in my career. It will give me greater peace and greater opportunities to achieve results.”
Riis reiterated that Contador can win all three Grand Tours in one season but admitted it was just a dream and would not happen in their first season together.
“We've talked about it,” Riis revealed. “The first time Alberto told me that it was a dream for him to win the three big Tours I thought it was fantastic. But, as I have said, it's a dream and sometimes there’s a long way between a dream and reality. And right now the gap is really big. I don’t think it’s something which happens next year, but it may happen one day. More importantly, we’ve first got to work together and then we’ll take it from there. Ultimately it's down to Alberto feels he can do it. I’ve just got to sit in the car, and that’s the easy part.”
Contador promised to work hard to capture the hearts of the Danish cycling fans and Riis advised him to work on his English so that he can quickly replace the Schlecks as the idol of the Danish cycling fans.
“He's a great guy and when people get to know him, they will also like him. But that means that they can no longer support the Schleck brothers. They’re natural rivals. But I think it's fine, but obviously next year I’ll be with Alberto. And I am convinced that many Danes will do.”
“Of course he doesn’t speak perfect English, but it's obviously something he will work. I believe that it is in his own interest to improve his English. When Jalabert came to the team 10 years ago, he could not speak English. When Carlos Sastre came, he could not speak English and when Ivan Basso came, he could not speak English. Today they speak pretty good English, so I’m sure Alberto can do the just as well.”
Although Contador and his inner circle of Spanish domestiques and staff will take some power and influence away from Riis, he is looking forward to the 2011 Tour de France.
“Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m always looking for new challenges, and this is a great challenge,” Riis said.
“Everything we've seen in the Tour this year, means we are set for something special next year. I think there will be huge focus on Tour de France next year because Andy really has come up and is close to Alberto. We’re set for a big show. And I’ll be sat right in the middle of it all, which is cool and something I’m very happy about.”
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