After being left without a team following the failure of the Pegasus project to get off the ground, Luke Roberts has signed for Saxo Bank-SunGard for the 2011 season. It will be the Australian’s second spell with Bjarne Riis’ outfit, after riding for the then CSC squad from 2005 to 2007.
Roberts spent the 2010 season with Milram but the German sponsor withdrew from the sport at the end of the year. He then found a berth with Pegasus, but his hopes of competing at the highest level with an Australian team came to nothing when Chris White’s outfit was denied a ProContinental licence due to its failure to provide sufficient financial guarantees.
“I'm extremely grateful that Bjarne Riis has offered me this opportunity, and I really want to repay the trust the team has shown me in a difficult situation," Roberts said.
Roberts won gold in the team pursuit at the Athens Olympics, a success that opened the door for him to step up to ProTour level with CSC and he is pleased to return to the fold.
"Bjarne was the first team owner offering me the opportunity to ride on the ProTour back in 2005, and I have learnt a lot from the way he approaches things and runs the team,” Roberts said. “It’s an honour for me to be back."
The Australian enjoyed a strong season on the road with Milram in 2010 and took the mountains classification at January’s Santos Tour Down Under, and Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis believes he has picked up something of a bargain in the versatile Roberts.
“He is a real pro, strong and experienced, and he is a rider that you can rely on in all kinds of races,” Riis said. “He has experience from Grand Tours and the ability to strengthen our Classics group, so I'm obviously happy to get him on board."
Saxo Bank-SunGard also announced the signing of 21-year-old Rafal Majka on Thursday. The Pole joins the squad from the Italian Trevigiani Bottoli amateur ranks. Riis explained that he decided to snap up the youngster when he impressed on a trial at Saxo Bank’s last training camp in Mallorca.
“He is young, a strong all rounder and a skilled climber, so this was an offer that was hard to refuse,” Riis said. “My hope is to build him into a stage racer.”
For his part, Majka declared himself delighted to have the opportunity to race alongside his “idol" Alberto Contador. The Spaniard, who returned a positive test for Clenbuterol in July last year, made a contentious return to competition at the Tour of the Algarve when his national federation opted to absolve him.