Alberto Contador has asked Saxo Bank-Sungard to get more riders to help him in the mountains in the coming year. Team Geox-TCM is folding, leaving noted climbers 2011 Vuelta a Espana winner Juan Jose Cobo and Giro d'Italia and two-time Vuelta a Espana winner Denis Menchov available for 2012. The perfect solution to the Danish team's problem? No, because Riis' real problem is that he has no more money.
“There is something called economic constraints. I have a budget for 2012, which I must respect and be consistent. So there is a reason why we have the riders we have,” he told sporten.dk.
“I've tried to get someone and I did not succeed, but now it is about over. And that means there is not just 500,000, a million or even two million euros in profit, so I could go out and do something now where the market is closed.”
As for signing Cobo or Menchov, “It's not going to happen.”
That means that the team is now “virtually” complete. “We are in place, I think. And in my eyes we are just as strong as we were in 2011. I am very satisfied with the material we have to work with.”
Riis defended his signing of the relatively unknown 33-year-old Japanese rider Takashi Miyazawa, saying, “I wanted very much to try something new. And don't be mistaken – he may ride very well.”
The truth of the matter may lay elsewhere, though, coming down again to money. “But it's also that we have long wanted to enter the Japanese market. There is great interest in cycling in Japan, we have lots of fans, and there may be a market to get a sponsor. It's not a coincidence that Real Madrid and Manchester United have training tournaments in Asia. It's a huge market.”
Most of Riis' new signings for the coming year have been younger or lesser-known riders, or domestiques. He knows that he is limited in what he can offer up.
“I don't have a team like BMC, where you have two almost equally strong teams for the Giro and Tour. That's it. I have a profile on the team of Alberto Contador, and I am happy. It's him that we build around and that's why we focus ruthlessly on the Tour de France,” Riis said.
But again, there he has a problem. He won't know until the end of November whether Contador will ride in 2012 or not, as the Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected to then issue its ruling on Contador's doping case from the 2010 Tour de France.
“It's a shit situation. No doubt about it,” Riis conceded. “I have no choice, and I think people forget. I have a contract with the world's best cyclist, but I'm locked. There is not a damn thing I can do differently.
“It's not because I'm not open to suggestions, but I can not spend the money twice, so I must just wait and hope that it will end positively. That we believe and why we support Alberto Contador.”