By Hedwig Kröner in Varese, Italy
The company owned by Bjarne Riis, Riis Cycling, hosted a press conference in the sumptuous 19th century Villa Andrea in Varese on Sunday, to announce the integration of a new main co-sponsor to the Saxo Bank team, Danish software business IT Factory. The new sponsor will back the team as of January 1, 2009, and has signed a deal with the cycling management company for a total of three years. As of next season, the Danish team will thus be called Team Saxo Bank-IT Factory.
Stein Bagger, CEO of IT Factory, was happy the cooperation with Saxo Bank was made possible by Riis' main sponsor. The deal was worked out after the Tour de France. "For us, this means an excellent communication platform to increase global awareness of our company," Bagger said. "Also, we want to create the first web-based anti-doping control system, available to all cyclists and the general public alike, as our special contribution to the sport." (Watch out for a follow-up story on this topic coming up on Cyclingnews.)
To Riis, the new sponsorship meant an additional stability in financing his team. "With Saxo Bank and now also IT Factory, we have established a foundation that will take us a long way into the future," he said. "We now have two strong companies supporting us and a budget enabling us to realize our ambitions."
These included continuing to support the team's main players, Fabian Cancellara and the Schleck brothers, as well as building up young talent. Riis denied having any plans to take on Alberto Contador for the moment. "At this time, we have no interest in signing him," he said. "We have big stars on the team that we are going to stick with. Andy Schleck is the biggest talent in cycling right now, and I am sure that he will be a source of success over the next ten years. One day, he will be on the top spot in Paris [winning the Tour de France - ed.]. I believe very strongly in him."
CSC, which has sponsored the team since 2001, is set to leave its role as title sponsor at the end of 2008. Saxo Bank came onboard as a joint title sponsor in June, just prior to the Tour de France.