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Bjarne Riis at the start this morning.
Saxo Bank team manager defends Schleck Vuelta expulsion
Saxo Bank-Sungard team manager Bjarne Riis reiterated his confidence in Alberto Contador and said that he is planning his season under the assumption that Contador will be able to race as normal.
“We’re worried and we’re trying to support Contador as much as we can,” Riis told Reuters. “There’s an ongoing procedure and we respect it. In any case, we won’t have any influence on the decision that will be taken."
“I know that his lawyers have put together a very good defence. Clenbuterol has been found in his urine but the dose was insignificant. He didn’t win the Tour de France because of that. It’s strange that the substance appeared only once."
Riis added that he is continuing to plan Contador’s season as if the Spaniard is going to start the new season normally with the Tour of Murcia in March. He also denied speculation that Contador might attempt to take part in all three Grand Tours and admitted that his Saxo Bank team had been weakened by the loss of so many riders and staff. Eight of his former riders have joined the new Leopard Trek team.
“It’s something I’d like to try with Alberto but not this year because I don’t have the team to back him,” Riis said. “17 to 20 people, I don’t remember exactly, have left Saxo Bank. Our team will probably not be as strong as before but it remains a good team. Nick Nuyens is a good rider for the classics. Richie Porte has an enormous potential and he’ll become a Tour de France contender in two or three years.”
The Dane has also had to recompose his technical staff after Kim Andersen’s departure to Leopard Trek. Riis was full of praise in the interview for his current team management. “Bradley McGee is the best directeur sportif in the world,” Riis stated. “His new assistant Philippe Mauduit who comes from Cervélo is of high quality too. I personally feel more relaxed than last year. 2010 was very complicated…”
One of those complications was his expulsion of Andy Schleck from the Vuelta a España after he broke internal team rules on alcohol consumption. Riis insisted that Schleck’s pending defection to Leopard Trek did not influence his decision to send the Luxembourger home.
“There are rules that cannot be broken,” Riis said. “Furthermore, as I paid him until the end of the year, he could have ridden until the end of the year, like the others who I knew were leaving.”