Some riders in the peloton are beginning to doubt Bjarne Riis' promises of a new sponsor or co-sponsor for the 2014 season. Nicki Sorensen said that if he gets a new contract, he expects it will include a pay cut, while Alex Rasmussen has said that he will concentrate on the track in 2014, and then look to join Riis' team in 2015.
Sorensen, 38, has been with Riis since 2001, which means he has been through other sponsor crises over the years. He is one of 12 Saxo-Tinkoff riders without a contract for 2014. The team has only 16 riders confirmed for the coming year.
That could prove to be a major stumbling block for Riis. Article 2.15.049 of the UCI cycling regulations states that “Each UCI ProTeam must employ at least 23 riders, 2 sports directors and 8 other staff (paramedical assistants, mechanics, etc.) on a full time basis for the whole registration year.”
“There are positive indications from Bjarne , but beyond that we do not know specifically about where we stand,” Sorensen told bt.dk.
It is not a new situation for Sorensen. He was with the team in autumn 2004, when Riis had to put up his own money to meet the UCI's deposit requirements. The riders took what bt.dk calls “a significant pay cut” at that time, and Sorensen suspects it may happen again.
“There must indeed be some correlation between income and expenditure. If there is, it is first and foremost us as riders who get hit on our salary when negotiating the contract.”
Riis is trying to calmly reassure all parties. “We are working to get the last details in place, and hopefully we will soon announce something concrete soon,” he told bt.dk. Negotiations are “reasonably well along, but there are still some things that need to fall into place.”
Rasmussen to the track
Rasmussen was not offered a contract extension at Garmin-Sharp and wanted to return to Saxo Bank, but he now seems convinced Riis will not have the money.
“It was a simple conversation I had with Bjarne about it. But I understood that it requires him to find a new sponsor this year, otherwise there will be no room on the team. So I do not expect it'll happen for next season. But maybe next year. It is therefore a long-term project,” he told bt.dk.
Unlike many other riders without a team, Rasmussen has a fall-back plan. “I have spoken with track coach Casper Jørgensen about it, and I would like back on the track team to find self-confidence again. I think it 's good to get back to my roots again to come back stronger.”
His goal is the track events at the 2016 Olympics. However, he still wants to stay active on the road as well.
“I am ready to go down a level or two and ride for a Continental team, if it can offer the proper freedom to concentrate fully on the track project. But I would still like to ride foreign races at the level below WorldTour, so I can gather some confidence in the way.”