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Bjarne Riis crests the summit of the Ventoux in the 1994 Tour de France
"We'll leave the speculation to the press"
Bjarne Riis has dismissed reports that he is struggling to find a second sponsor to cover his budget and cutting riders' salaries for the 2014 season after losing the support of Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov.
Tinkov seemed close to becoming the first-name sponsor of Riis's team during the Tour de France but his often capricious tweets affected their relationship and they failed to seal a deal for 2014. Tinkov is now reported to be close to reaching a deal with the Cannondale team, while Riis is trying to find a new sponsor to help him cover Alberto Contador's estimated four million Euro contract.
On Friday the Danish media claimed that Contador has accepted to take a 15% pay cut for 2014 after his disappointing season and to help Riis balance the books.
"A lot of media has said things but that's not a surprise. You can easily interpretate things as you want and that's what the media does," Riis told Cyclingnews at Il Lombardia.
He said his relationship with Tinkov fell apart due to 'different opinions' but refused to give any details.
He insisted the reports about Contador's pay cut were also made up by the media.
"That's speculation too. I never said anything bout that," he said between long silences, moments of reflection and a rare smile.
"We're going announce something when we have something to announce. When we find it's the right moment. Until that we'll leave the speculation to the press," he said, adding: "I'm confident."
He also denied that Contador had complained about the string of sponsor obligations and trips across Europe he faces this week.
"I think that's also a press thing that was made up. I don 't think he said it that way. It's part of his job. He knows that and it's not a problem for him."
Not a vintage season
Il Lombardia still symbolically marks the end of the European season and Riis will no doubt raise a glass of fine wine after Lombardia. But 2013 has not been a vintage year for Riis. His team has performed well as a unit, especially at the Tour de France, but Contador underperformed and often failed to finish off the good work done by his teammates. He was fourth at the tour, with Roman Kreuziger fifth
but Saxo-Tinkoff was riding to win yellow.
Nicolas Roche and Rafal Majka impressed in the Vuelta a Espana and the Giro d'Italia but the team has just seven wins to its name after eight months of racing.
"The first part of the season wasn't really what we expected, what we hope for," Riis admitted.
"After that we did a good Tour of Switzerland and a good Dauphine. The Tour was good. Okay, Alberto didn't do what he expected and what we expected but the team performed very well. I think two guys in the top five I think that's still good. Of course when you have Alberto, you aim to win, but that's cycling."
"We've got as strong team," Riis insisted, perhaps trying to convince himself as much as his critics and former sponsors.