Fränk and Andy Schleck have officially announced that they will not be riding for Bjarne Riis' Saxo Bank cycling team next season. Instead the brothers will ride for a Luxembourg-based team in 2011.
For months the pair were rumoured to be setting up a team based in their homeland, while Riis, struggling to find a backer for next season, had finally announced at the Tour de France that a new sponsor had been found to replace Saxo Bank, who are set to leave the sport at the end of the year.
In a text message to Cyclingnews, Andy wrote, "It's official that we will not be riding with Bjarne next season."
"We're not going to stay. We're going to leave at the end of the year. All the doubts and news about us racing in the same team as Contador are now finished. We're not going to continue."
In June, Saxo Bank directeur sportif Kim Andersen left the team to work on creating a new ProTour squad. Within a week former Riis employee, Brian Nygaard, left Team Sky, with speculation mounting that the Schlecks had hired him as a team manager.
A week after leaving Sky, Nygaard issued a statement: "The economic foundation for the team for next year is in place and now that I have hired Kim Andersen as senior director of sports, the sports management is also as strong as it can be. We may not yet say anything concrete about the sponsors or riders who will ride for our new team."
Tonight, Schleck ended all the speculation after competing a criterium in the center of Luxembourg. "We can't say where we're going but of course there's a team in Luxembourg coming up but we made our mind up and Bjarne knows."
"It's been a fantastic five years for me and eight for Fränk and I learnt a lot in that time. I'll still stay friends with Bjarne but this is the end of the road for us as a team."
Before the Tour, Riis was aware that he was set to lose two of his biggest stars. "I can not imagine a new Luxembourg team without Frank and Andy Schleck in it," Riis said.
"I have talked with both Andy and Fränk about the future but we're not in negotiations right now, and that suggests that things will go in the direction that they seem to be going."
Fränk signed with Riis in 2002 when the team was known as CSC-Tiscali, while younger brother Andy signed as a trainee in 2004 before penning a permanent deal in 2005.