In the absence of the suspended Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank has named a team designed to chase stage victories at the upcoming Tour de France. Bjarne Riis’ nine-man selection features sprinter Juan José Haedo, former Tour of Flanders winner Nick Nuyens and Chris Anker Sørsensen, who will look to make an impact in the mountains.
"We will bring JJ for the sprints, and we have some trusted helpers around him,” said Riis. “In Chris we have a rider with the potential to really influence the mountain stages and maybe he is even a guy to watch for the mountain jersey.”
The Saxo Bank selection also features three former stage winners at the Tour – Sergio Paulinho, who triumphed in Gap in 2010, Nicki Sørensen, who won in Vittel in 2009 and Karsten Kroon, victor in Plouay in 2002.
“We are entering this year's Tour de France with our eyes set on stage wins and with the aim to make an impact on the race, and I'm convinced that this is possible,” Riis said. “We have tried to put together a group of riders that will enable us to open up possibilities, and I believe we have found a great mix of experience, aggressiveness and different competencies.”
The Saxo Bank squad is completed by Michael Mørkøv, Anders Lund and Tour de France debutant Jonathan Cantwell of Australia.
It was a very different Saxo Bank squad twelve months ago, as Alberto Contador lined up for the Tour as the favourite for overall honours. In the meantime, Contador was suspended for his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour, and he will not return to action until August, in time for the Vuelta a España.
“Of course this is a very different job waiting for us this year without a designated GC rider,” Riis said. “But I see this as an exiting challenge and a possibility to take some risks that would have been practically impossible under other circumstances. I actually have a really good feeling about the Tour, and I don't think it would be wise to underestimate our team."
Saxo Bank team for the Tour de France: Juan José Haedo (Arg), Jonathan Cantwell (Aus), Nick Nuyens (Bel), Chris Anker Sørensen (Den), Nicki Sørensen (Den), Michael Mørkøv (Den), Anders Lund (Den), Karsten Kroon (Ned) and Sergio Paulinho (Por).