Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis announced during the first rest day of the Tour de France that his team would continue to exist for at least two more years. Current co-sponsor, US-based IT firm Sungard, becomes co-title sponsor, next to a yet unnamed new title sponsor. Whether or not current top gun Andy Schleck would still be present in Riis's team next year remained an unanswered question.
"The next two years are secured for this team," Riis said on Monday afternoon. "Last year we started a relationship with Sungard and I've been able to prove to them what we could do. They're happy and ready to step up. They will become a very important sponsor for us; a co-title sponsor.
"We reached an agreement with another company, as a title sponsor, which will make it possible for us to continue. I can not announce the name right now, because of business strategy reasons. This will happen later, not during this Tour, even though I know there will a lot of speculation be going on about it," Riis said.
"The most important thing is that this team is continuing, and on a high level. We are still negotiating with other sponsors and still seeking other sponsorships for this team because we want to bring it on an even higher level. This team has a lot of ambitions. We want to be the leading team in the world. That's always been our essence for many years now and we're still working on that.
"I believe it's good for cycling, because I believe the things we do are good for cycling. The philosophy we have is very important for the future of cycling and we want to have a huge influence on the future of cycling. Now we're having the guarantee that we will be able to do that; I'm very happy about that," Riis said. "We're all very motivated now. We're going to show the world what we're here for."
His key rider to reach that goal is Andy Schleck. Whether or not the young rider from Luxembourg would still be there in 2011 to help Riis win the Tour de France was a key question after Riis revealed his news. "I'm not here to talk about that now, that's for after the Tour," Schleck said. "I'm really happy here. I'm really happy for Bjarne. I think if this team wouldn't have found a new sponsor it would've been pretty much over with cycling, to be honest."
Clearly, going into the crucial stages of the Tour de France the Saxo Bank team only wants to hand out news that brings the team together, avoiding the creation of split-ups in the team that fights for the overall win.
"It has been an exciting week for us," said Riis. "We had lots of success with the yellow jersey for Fabian and yesterday the great victory for Andy. It was marvelous, in spite of the turbulence that has been, especially in the media. We showed that we can stick together, even under pressure. I'm very proud of this team. Of course there's Andy who's in top condition. There's no doubt about it that he's here to win the Tour."
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