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Stage race team leader Jurgen Van Den Broeck
Omega-Pharma deal spoiled Dane's contingency plan
Belgian sensation Jurgen Van Den Broeck has revealed that Bjarne Riis was ready to make him Saxo Bank's Tour de France "Plan B" after Alberto Contador's positive test for clenbuterol.
Speaking on Friday night at Omega Pharma-Lotto's Majorca training camp, Van Den Broeck said that his agent and Riis discussed a possible deal last year. As the Contador case dragged on and Riis's hands remained tied, however, Van Den Broeck finally opted to sign a three-year contract extension with his present team.
"Riis spoke to my manager about me going to Saxo Bank as an alternative if Contador got banned," Van Den Broeck, fifth at the 2010 Grande Boucle, confirmed. "I didn't get personally involved in the negotiations, so I don't know exactly how far they went. I just know that it was very flattering that a guy like Riis was interested in me. I couldn't carry on waiting, though, so I extended my contract here."
On Thursday, Van Den Broeck had insisted that Contador's absence from the 2011 Tour would have little effect on his own prospects in July. He reiterated the claim today, but added that, if the Spaniard isn't on the start-line in France, a whole gaggle of riders might legitimately target overall victory in Paris.
"If Contador isn't there, every guy who was in the top ten last year is capable of winning the Tour," the 27-year-old commented. "It's going to be strange because anything can happen. Every guy thinks this is his big chance. I don't know who will control the race – you could get a situation like in 2006, when [Oscar] Pereiro went away. It will be a lot more aggressive than last year."
UCI president Pat McQuaid admitted earlier this week that it was "a possibility" that Contador will miss the Tour due to sanctions imposed by the Spanish Cycling Federation or even appeals against their verdict if the three-time Tour champion is found innocent.