Bjarne Riis has revealed that Saxo Bank will continue to sponsor his cycling team alongside new sponsor SunGard in 2011, with Tour de France winner Alberto Contador joining the team for the next two years. Specialized will continue as bike sponsor but will not be a title sponsor of the team.
Riis announced the news today at a press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
There has been huge speculation about Contador's future and the name of Riis' new backers in the last few days. Riis refused to reveal any details before the press conference but Danish television reported that Saxo Bank will put in approximately six million Euro for 2011. It is unclear if the trading and investment bank will continue their support beyond next year.
According to reports in Denmark, Riis has already registered the teamsaxobanksungard.com website domain on the internet.
“Saxo Bank has decided to go on for another year. Lars Seier (Kristensen, the co-CEO of Saxo Bank) has worked hard for this. I'm glad and proud that you we can go on with our super co-operation,” Riis said, cracking a rare smile as he made the announcement.
“I’m proud to be able to present Alberto Contador on our team for next year. I'm proud to have been able to attract the world's best cyclist to a Danish team.”
Lars Seier Kristensen said: “I went to the Tour this year convinced that it would be the last. But sometimes things change. I have followed the team during the Tour and heard Bjarne Riis talk about his ideas about the future. So we have changed our minds.”
Both Kristensen and Riis refuted that Saxo Bank’s decision to continue their sponsorship for a further year had blocked the arrival of a new sponsor.
“We’re not the new secret sponsor that have stepped back to let us go on,” Kristensen said.
Riis said: “We have chosen this since we believe that it is the right way to go. We have chosen the solution that is best for us right now.”
Contador – Schleck rivalry
The arrival of Contador will further fuel the rivalry between Andy Schleck and Contador. They seem destined to fight for victory at the Tour de France in the next few years after their head to head battle this year.
It was widely speculated that Contador would be presented to the media at the press conference. He rode and won a criterium in Belgium on Monday night but then announced via Twitter that he was traveling to Bordeaux for another race.
Riis confirmed that Contador would travel to Copenhagen, perhaps to ink his contract for 2011, later today.
“He is not here and has not been seen at Copenhagen airport but he will arrive later,” Riis said.
“I think I can contribute to polishing this diamond (Contador) even further.”
”Alberto (Contador) is a world class rider and it's with great pride that I can welcome him onboard the team for the next two years. With three Tour de France victories on his resume and a position as number one on the world rankings, he is sure to stay at the very top for several years to come. Alberto will get a solid, strong and loyal team around him to support him in all terrains and I'm sure that this will be a fruitful alliance."
Contador, who wasn't at the press conference, released the following statement: ”I'm very happy and excited about signing a two year contract with Riis Cycling. With the unique philosophy and team spirit the team offers I'm ensured solid support from the sponsors, administration and staff of riders that I'm looking forward to becoming a part of myself. Historically, Riis Cycling has always been successful and together, we will have the ability to play a very important role in the world of cycling in the years to come."
Riis has secured Contador as team leader but now must rebuild his team for 2011. Andy and Frank Schleck have already confirmed they are moving on and look set to create their own team in Luxembourg with Riis’ former directeur sportif Kim Andersen and former press officer Brian Nygaard managing the team. A number of staff and experienced riders are also expected to jump ship and work with the Schlecks, including Jens Voigt, Stuart O’Grady. New signings could include Germany’s Linus Gerdemann, Fabian Wegmann Domenik Klemme.
Fabian Cancellara is expected to stay with Riis’ team in 2011 because he has a year remaining on his contract. Emerging talent Richie Porte is also expected to stay with the team as a second team leader for stage races.
However Riis refused to confirm any other names for the 2011 line-up or say if any of Contador’s current teammates from Astana will move to Saxo Bank-SunGard with him in 2011.
“We are looking on who is leaving and who we will keep,” Riis said, knowing the arrival of Contador marks the start of a new chapter of his career as team owner and manager.