Cyclingnews readers have voted Saxo Bank the team of the year for 2010 ahead of HTC-Columbia and Liquigas-Doimo.
Saxo Bank obtained 5509 votes, 32 per cent of the total, and three percent more than HTC-Columbia. The two teams dominated the poll, with Liquigas-Doimo a distant third with 13 per cent of the votes. Garmin-Transitions was fourth with 12 per cent.
Saxo Bank won a total of 45 races during the 2010 season and snatched top spot in the UCI ranking from Liquigas-Doimo at the Tour of Lombardy by just nine points.
13 different riders in the team won races during the season. Fabian Cancellara confirmed he is currently the best classics rider in the world by dominating the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, while Andy Schleck may still be crowned the winner of the Tour de France if Alberto Contador is banned.
Bjarne Riis has always relied on a core of loyal riders to get results but in 2010 neo-pro Richie Porte emerged as a key rider in the team. He wore the pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia for three days, won the best young rider’s white jersey and finished seventh overall. Later in the season he confirmed his talent by finishing fourth in the Eneco Tour and fourth in the world time trial championships.
Jakob Fuglsang also showed his stage racing talent, winning the Tour of Denmark and finishing third overall in the Tour of Switzerland won by teammate Frank Schleck. Sprinter JJ Haedo won four races, time trialist Gustav Larsson took the final stage of the Giro d’Italia and Matti Breschel won Dwars door Vlaanderen.
A year of change
On paper 2010 was a great year for Saxo Bank but also marked a huge moment of change for Riis.
The creation of the Leopard-Trek team and the mass exit of the Schleck brothers, Stuart O’Grady, Jens Voigt, Fuglsang and then Cancellara left him with a far weaker team for 2011.
Riis initially took it badly but moved quickly during the Tour de France to sign Contador. It was an audacious move which then back fired when it was revealed the Spaniard had tested positive for Clenbuterol.
While Team Leopard grew in strength to become the world’s number one ranked team, Saxo Bank slipped to tenth. That position was calculated using Contador’s points from the Tour de France; without them Saxo Bank would be languishing in the lower part of the ProTeam standings.
Riis has always been able to survive doping scandals and loss of sponsors during his 11 years a team manager. But after his success of 2010, he now faces his toughest battle of all. Saxo Bank has guaranteed sponsorship for just one year and Contador might never race in a Saxo Bank-SunGard jersey. In cycling, so much change in just a season.