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Team Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis announced on Monday that he has found a new co-sponsor for his team: the Russian Tinkoff Bank. The Credit Systems company will support the Danish team for the rest of this season and throughout 2013, while Saxo Bank has also extended its sponsorship contract through next year.
The team will be named Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank.
Tinkoff Bank was founded by Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov, who started his involvement in cycling with the Tinkoff Credit Systems team in 2007, before moving onto creating the Katusha squad in 2009. Tinkov left the team that year after a conflict with the other team head, Andre Tchmil.
“For me of course it's a fantastic day, a beautiful day for me and for the team, that so close to the Tour de France we are able to announce that we are going forward for next year,” Riis said at the press conference on Monday afternoon at Riis Cycling headquarters in Hellerup, Denmark. “It is tough to get ready as there is a lot of practical stuff to do, but it’s very exciting, and it gives the whole team extra motivation going into the Tour.”
But Riis was mainly thinking of the future. “We have big ambitions. This year is the restart, to build my dream again, and my dream and ambition is to have the best and strongest cycling team in the world again, and this is the first step in that direction.
“To me, it is a dream to have two partners like that, who want to be the best in their area, which exactly the same as what I want. I want to be the best in my area and I would say that as of today, we are on are way to building that up again.”
When asked what the team's new budget would be, Riis refused to say the numbers. “The most important thing for me is that have sponsors also in the coming year and that means I can also sign up a team for next year, which of course I will. I am already working on it.
“I am not going to tell you the budget and I am not going to tell you who is coming to the team – yet. The plan is be stronger and the plan is to win races.”
The team will debut a new jersey at the Tour de France, which gets underway in Liège on Saturday. The jersey incorporates Tinkoff Bank’s yellow to the bottom half of the existing Saxo Bank design. There are also yellow stripes and accents on the collar and shorts.
Tinkov, who took time to make a video of the proceedings on his mobile phone, said: “What a comeback to cycling!” He pointed to his own experience of running a team, stressing that he knew cycling “very well.”
“I always used to admire how Mr. Riis ran the business,” Tinkov continued. “To me he is the best team leader in the word and it was always my dream to work with him. I said that if I ever come back to cycling, I would come back with Riis Cycling.”
Saxo Bank director Lars Seier Christensen announced the extension of his sponsorship contract with the team. “For us, it has been of importance to have a co-sponsor for 2012, and the fact that we have found a good partnership with Tinkoff Bank has made us decide to extend again for 2013.”