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Smile if you want to go faster: Bjarne Riis made the trip to Australia
Dane satisfied with 2011 season, with Giro and Flanders wins
Bjarne Riis’s Saxo Bank-Sungard has been one of the most subdued teams in the transfer market, and the Dane knows that their main 2012 firepower will depend on the future of Alberto Contador, whose CAS ruling will be handed down next month.
With Contador in the dock and a verdict coming so late, Riis has admitted that his hands have been tied when hunting for potential replacements. Sergio Paulinho (Radiohack) is perhaps the one big name who has come in, and while a number of riders have been re-signed, the team have lost the likes of Riche Porte to Sky and Baden Cooke to GreenEdge.
“It’s not been that easy and you can’t calculate with what you don’t have,” Riis told Cyclingnews as he summarised the team’s activities in the market.
“I don’t have a lot of options there other than to keep Alberto. The problem is that the verdict comes too late so I don’t have a chance to do anything. I’m going to count on Alberto and he’s on my team. There are a lot of ifs but right now we know what we have and everything else is just speculation. I’m not in a position where I can do a lot.”
2011 has been a relatively successful year for the team. The Danish squad secured 18 wins, including the Giro d’Italia through Contador and the Tour of Flanders courtesy of Nick Nuyens. Both riders were new signings brought in to fill the void left by the exodus to Leopard Trek. A Tour de France victory was perhaps asking too much after Contador’s ride in Italy and a first week dominated by crashes at the Tour.
Still, the team will go into the off season content with their lot and consensus within the peloton is that Riis is happier and far more motivated than he has been in years. In 2010 a former Saxo Bank rider told Cyclingnews that the former Tour de France winner was more preoccupied with his golf swing than running a team but the Dane told Cyclingnews that his motivation has always been present. Devoid of the guaranteed wins that Fabian Cancellara would provide (9 in 2010, 7 in 2011), Riis gambled on the likes of Nuyens.
“We had a good year and we’ve had some good results. We’ve been unlucky on a few occasions but we’re finishing the year in good form. I’m looking forward to closing the season and there have been lots of ups and downs but the win at Flanders and the Giro success really stand out as highlights.”