Former-Gerolsteiner director Hans-Michael Holczer has expressed empathy for the situation of Saxo Bank boss Bjarne Riis, as the Dane contines his search for a replacement sponsor. Holczer was unable to find a title sponsor after Gerolsteiner pulled away from his team, and the German was forced to close his team down in 2008.
Saxo Bank will end its two-and-a-half seasons of sponsorship at the end of 2010. Holczer believes Riis must find a new sponsor no later than the Tour de France.
“D-day is one to two days into the Tour de France. If you do not have a sponsor for next year by then, you will lose your riders to other teams," he said in an interview with the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.
Riis has headed his team since 2000, guiding the then-CSC sponsored team to eviable success at the Tour de France and the spring Classics. As owner of the team Riis has the advantage of possibly continuing the team without a sponsor, but Holczer said the squad's decade of development will be the biggest barrier to this.
"When the team was smaller, Riis has perhaps the personal and financial power to keep the team going. But now the team is much bigger, and it is an expensive team,” he said.
Holczer had sympathy for Riis's situation. “As a leader you must still focus on your team, so it does not collapse. And you shall chase a sponsor while at the same time you must calculate a risk that you will not find a sponsor and that you must abandon everything. It is a difficult balancing act.”