Bjarne Riis has conceded that both Frank and Andy Schleck will leave his team at the end of the season to join a new team in Luxembourg being created by his former directeur sportif Kim Andersen and former press officer Brian Nygaard.
On Sunday morning Andersen confirmed that he has been released by Riis and will not work with the Saxo Bank team at this year's Tour de France. Nygaard also recently left Team Sky where he had been head of communications.
Nygaard confirmed the creation of what he hopes will be a major new team in 2011 to Cyclingnews and issued a statement. The team is expected to apply for UCI ProTour licence.
"The economic foundation for the team for next year is in place and now that I have hired Kim Andersen as senior director of sports, the sports management is also as strong as it can be. We may not yet say anything concrete about the sponsors or riders who will ride for our new team," Nygaard said in the statement.
Andersen raced as a professional in the eighties, winning a stage in the 1983 Tour de France and wearing the yellow jersey for six days. He failed multiple anti-doping tests and was banned from competition before retiring in 1992.
He said in the statement: "It is clear that we are now going out and get riders to our new teams. It is also clear that our ambition is to reach deals with some of the world's best riders because we are very determined to create a team that is at the very top of the cycling sport. I have therefore also confirmed to several media that we are interested in the best riders in world, but I cannot say anything more specific at this time."
Riis emotional about split
Riis confirmed that he had ended Andersen's contract after it became apparent he was working on the Luxembourg project while still being employed by Riis' Saxo Bank team. He also expects Jakob Fuglsang to join the Schlecks in the new Luxembourg team.
"I can not imagine a new Luxembourg team without Frank and Andy Schleck in it," Riis said after seeing Nicki Sørensen win the Danish national road title for Saxo Bank.
"I have talked with both Andy and Frank about the future but we're not in negotiations right now, and that suggests that things will go in the direction that they seem to be going."
Riis spoke emotionally about the split on Danish television. He knows it could mean he will lose other key riders and staff unless he secures a new sponsor for his own team. However he refused to be angry about the news.
"I'm neither disappointed or angry about what has happened. I cannot be because everyone has the right to make their own choices and take responsibility for their own life," he said.
"The rumors have been out there for some time. I also have eyes and ears, and I get to know things. When I found out that Kim had other interests rather than just Team Saxo Bank, I saw no alternative than to part ways. The decision (about the releasing Andersen) was already made at the Tour de Suisse, when it became clear that things couldn't carry on as they were. Most of the riders who will ride the Tour were in Switzerland, and they were told, and all others who needed to know, were informed."
Riis insisted the split would not affect the Saxo Bank team at the Tour de France, where Fränk and Andy Schleck will try to beat Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong
"When I gave riders the report on Kim's departure, I stressed very clearly that they and I still have the common goal of winning the Tour. If along the way, a rift develops in the team, I will make sure that things are put in place."