Team Saxo Bank is gearing up for its next challenge, that of finding a new team sponsor. Team General Manager Trey Greenwood said he found the idea of finding a replacement "a big challenge", but that he was optimistic about his chances.
Friday afternoon the bank announced that it was ending its sponsorship of the Danish ProTour team as of the end of this season.
"I heard the news Wednesday night," Greenwood told Cyclingnews on Friday. "I didn't sleep at all last night because of calling everyone, all the riders, making sure everyone got the word."
"We are obviously disappointed and surprised. They are leaving a year early, which was not expected," he said.
All of the team's experiences with the bank had been positive, Greenwood noted, adding that the bank gave them the news "in good time".
The bank "has a very narrow client target group, and our appeal was simply too broad for them. They told us, this is not about Team Saxo Bank, it is about Saxo Bank."
Greenwood, 42, will now turn his attention to finding a new team sponsor. "We have a professional management group, a great team and a good product. There will always be companies out there that can benefit from us – we have to identify and contact them."
This is not a new situation for him or the team, having done it all once before. Former name sponsor CSC announced in March 2008 that it was ending its co-operation with the team, and Saxo Bank signed with them that summer.
"We've been through all of this before," he noted. "We came out of that experience with a better organisation and are in better shape to handle this now than we were then."
Circumstances are better now then they were then, not counting the experience gained in the interim. "We have more time, about three months more for our search. And cycling itself is in better shape now than then. The doping scandals were fresher then. The subject still comes up now, but it doesn't carry as much weight as it did in 2008."
Greenwood won't limit his search to another Danish company, nor did he do so in 2008. "When we signed with Saxo Bank, we weren't focusing on a Danish company, it was actually a coincidence. We need to be very international."
He emphasised that the selection process went both ways. The sponsor must fit with the team, as well as the team to the sponsor. "They must be a good partner who fits with us. We need to look for a company who wants to introduce new products or expand its markets – there must be a compelling case for us to be interested in them.
"I feel good about it, since have a great product to sell," he concluded. "It is pretty to easy to convey the passions and the beauty of the sport."
The 2010 team
That "great product", says Greenwood, is a very successful team. "We have such a good team. I was with them for training camp. When I see them riding, I think we will surprise a lot of people this year."
Greenwood noted that there have been media reports that are predicting less success in 2010, "saying we lost too many good riders. Maybe that is good that a lot of people are underestimating us.
"We have a very strong core team, with the Schlecks. Yes, we lost a lot of riders but have a lot of new ones coming along."
For example, he said, they lost Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen, who after six years with the team has transferred to the new Sky Team this year. "He is hard to replace, he was a real leader. But then we have young riders like Matti Breschel and Jakob Fuglsang coming along, who have their own special qualities and are also very good."
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