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2009 SUMMARY: Saxo Bank’s year wasn’t quite up to the previous one, when they won the Tour and took 47 wins. However, that’s not to say it was bad, including a second place in Paris for Liège victor Andy Schleck and 43 other wins. Underlining the strength throughout this team is that those victories came from 14 different riders. This year also saw Fabian Cancellara take the World Time Trial title, along with stage wins at the Tour and the Vuelta.
LOOKING AHEAD: Could this be Andy Schleck’s year at the Tour? More than anything, it’s his time trialling that reduces his prospects of beating Alberto Contador. However, the onus this July will be on climbing, especially during the four brutal days in the Pyrenees, and the strength of the Saxo Bank team gives the Schleck brothers a crucial edge in the mountains over the Spaniard. Meanwhile, although Cancellara’s major tour chances have been talked up in the past, the Swiss rider looks set for another blistering Classics campaign.
THE LINE-UP: Despite the late injection of some extra cash from new minor sponsor SunGard, team manager Bjarne Riis has had to let a few big names go. Worlds runner-up Alexandr Kolobnev is the biggest loss but Matthew Goss, Lars Bak, Karsten Kroon and especially Kurt-Asle Arvesen all performed significantly in 2009. The biggest name coming to Saxo Bank is 2003 Tour de France points classification winner Baden Cooke, who may be the latest to benefit from Riis’s Midas touch in relaunching fading careers.
ONE TO WATCH: A crash in the Vuelta’s first week put paid to Jakob Fuglsang’s chances during his major tour debut. Still, the ex-mountain biker frequently showed why he’s been tipped as a pretender for grand tour titles with his performances last season. This year looks too soon for him to shine fully but the departure of key names should free up a slot for him at the Tour. If so, he’s sure to get a key role as the last line of support for the Schlecks in the mountains.