Bjarne Riis has admitted that it will be impossible to replace Fabian Cancellara in the Saxo Bank team after letting him end his contract, but has hinted the world time trial champion and multiple classics winner may never be as successful as he was during his five years with CSC and Saxo Bank.
“Fabian is special and it’s impossible to replace him but he’s moved on and that’s how it is. I got the best out of him. But now it’s over. We had some great years together but we’ve agreed to go to separate and go our own way,” Riis told Cyclingnews just after reaching a deal to let Cancellara end his contract a year earlier.
Riis refused to reveal the details of the agreement and claimed he did not know if Cancellara will now join the new Luxembourg team, BMC or Team Sky. All three teams have been linked to Cancellara in recent weeks.
The Luxembourg team seems the most likely destination for Cancellara because he would join up with many of his former teammates and staff. However Riis questioned the viability of the Luxembourg project being created by his former staff members Brian Nygaard and Kim Andersen and captained by Andy and Frank Schleck.
“I’ve agreed to let him go. We made an agreement. That’s all I’m saying,” Riis said.
“I don’t honestly know who he is going to ride for, he didn’t tell me. It could be the Luxembourg team but it's a strange how they are doing things. Nobody knows anything about the team, they haven’t said who will sponsor and fund the team.”
Riis has lost his team leader for the cobbled classics but insisted that talented Australian Richie Porte will stay with Saxo Bank in 2011 despite being the target of several offers from other teams after finishing seventh in the Giro d’Italia and wearing the pink jersey for several stages. Riis intends to build the 2011 Saxo Bank team around Porte new signing Alberto Contador.
“I’m finishing the structure of the 2011 team now. I’m pretty sure we’ll have a strong team that will get some big results,” Riis said.
“We’ll focus on success with Alberto Contador because he’s the best in the world. We will also have some good young riders. The important thing is that the riders who are on my team want to be with the team.”