Alberto Contador has revealed that he has asked Saxo Bank-Sungard team boss Bjarne Riis to sign another climber with next year’s Tour de France in mind. Speaking to sport and physical education students at the University of Alcalá de Henares in Madrid, Contador admitted that he is particularly concerned by the strength of the team brought about by the fusion of the RadioShack and Leopard squads.
“Riis is still working to see if he can bring in any reinforcements, with particular focus on a climber. That would be really useful, but I know that it’s complicated and that all the riders out there have got their own interests,” said Contador, who added: “I’ve got a lot of confidence in my team and I’m also confident because the season will not be like this year’s was.”
Clearly alluding to the fact that he won’t be defending the Giro title that cost him so much physically this year and left him fatigued going into and through the Tour, Contador affirmed that the whole Saxo Bank team will be focused on doing what it can to go into the Tour “in the best possible condition”.
Asked about his thoughts on the fusion of the RadioShack and Leopard-Trek teams, Contador admitted candidly: “It’s a merger that I would really have preferred not to have taken place. It brings together experience and quality riders in the same team. But this also brings a challenge and that provides me with motivation.”
As things stand, Saxo Bank have made seven signings for next season, bringing in Troels Vinther and Christopher Juul Jensen from Glud & Marstrand, Karsten Kroon from BMC, Anders Lund and Bruno Pires from Leopard-Trek, Ran Margaliot, who was a stagiaire with the team this season, and Sergio Paulinho from RadioShack. Of these seven, only Paulinho will significantly boost Saxo’s strength in the mountains, the Portuguese having fulfilled exactly that role in Contador’s service at the 2009 Tour when the two men were with Astana.
This week’s news that Geox have pulled the plug on their sponsorship deal may provide Riis and Contador with some more options. The UCI have already indicated that riders on the Geox roster are free to leave the team as the squad failed to meet the deadline to complete its application for 2012, effectively giving three-time grand tour winner Denis Menchov and this year’s Vuelta champion Juan José Cobo the chance to investigate other opportunities.
Menchov may be of particular interest to Riis and Contador, given his long experience at the top level and oft-stated desire to be on a team that is guaranteed entry into the top events on the calendar. Geox’s failure to gain ProTeam status this year meant that Menchov was not able to line up at the Tour de France, where he has twice been a podium-finisher, most recently in 2010. Cobo could interest the Danish team as well, although questions have been asked in the past about his psychological strength, notably during his 2010 season with Caisse d’Epargne when he abandoned six stage races and didn’t have a result of note.