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Fabien Cancellara (L) and Andy Schleck lead their Saxo Bank teammates on a ride in Monaco.
Financial constraints force downsize in team and programme
Saxo Bank principal Bjarne Riis has admitted that financial restrictions will force the team to race a reduced schedule of races in 2010. Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten reports that the absence of a replacement for former sponsor IT Factory has forced the team to approach the new season with a smaller roster and re-evaluation of its goals.
"Our race program for the coming season looks really good, people are unlikely to notice the races we have cut away," Riis told Jyllands-Posten. "Our team is definitely on par with that of 2009. If you look at it, we [still] have the World's best Classics team."
The financial constraints placed on the team mean Saxo Bank have been unable to replace departing stalwarts Alexandr Kolobnev, Lars Bak, Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Karsten Kroon. Saxo Bank have, however, bolstered their roster with several new riders including, Australian Richie Porte and Argentinean Sebastian Haedo.
Despite the loss of several of his more experienced riders, Riis is confident the younger members of the team will come to the fore. "As I see it, it makes room for some others to go a step up. It is quite natural that they take [the other riders] place; I am not worried," said Riis. "I think there's a little too much focus our finances and who we have lost; I do not think there is any reason to be concerned.
"We have a strong team with guys like Chris Anker Sørensen and Matti Breschel. Also Jakob Fuglsang has come into the team and proven to be world class. I'm not nervous about it. We have as equally a strong team as in the past."
Saxo Bank Sports Director Kim Andersen acknowledged that, "It is clear that we can not go and get quite as many victories," however, the squad's narrower focus will not see any change the team's major goals, including the Tour de France.
Andersen and Riis told Jyllands-Posten that they expect the spread of talent across new teams such as RadioShack and Team Sky to create a more open race next July.
Andy Schleck is once again expected to be Saxo Bank's main hope for victory in the French Grand Tour. The 24-year-old finished second in this year's edition of the race, 4:11 behind winner Alberto Contador, and 1:13 ahead of third placed Lance Armstrong.