Bjarne Riis’ Saxo Bank team suffered two more losses over the weekend: Fabian Cancellara and Alex Rasmussen. Dane Rasmussen will race with Mark Cavendish at team HTC-Columbia and Cancellara may join the other Saxo Bank stars in Luxembourg.
“There will be more concrete statements in a week,” Team Manager Brian Nygaard told Denmark’s BT newspaper. “But we have already confirmed that we make a ProTour-level team built around Fränk and Andy Schleck, based in Luxembourg.”
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The team will likely also be the home of Saxo Bank’s Jens Voigt, Stuart O’Grady, Jakob Fuglsang and Anders Lund. Cancellara may be next.
Riis confirmed on Friday that Cancellara will leave at the end of this season, one year early. Cancellara reportedly had to pay €3 million to end his contract early, an amount that may partly come from team Luxembourg’s estimated €20 million budget for next year.
Cancellara ends five years with Riis, which included stage wins in the Tour de France, Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, an Olympic time trial title and three World Championships time trial titles.
Cancellara and Matti Breschel’s (to Rabobank) departure will put a dent in Saxo Bank’s one-day classics team. Saxo Bank is destined to become a Tour de France team next year. Riis loses Andy and Fränk Schleck at the end of the year, but welcomes this year’s Tour champ, Spain’s Alberto Contador.
Contador beat Andy by 39 seconds in July to claim his third title.
British fans will remember Alex Rasmussen as the rider who stopped Bradley Wiggins from winning his debut time trial for Sky this year at the Tour of Andalusia. The 26-year-old announced yesterday that he signed a one-year contract with USA’s HTC-Columbia team.
“I see some opportunities in their sprint team,” Rasmussen told Denmark’s TV 2 Sport. “I still have a lot to learn and there [at HTC] I can learn a lot over the next few years.”
Rasmussen won four races this year: Andalusia’s time trial, the GP Herning and two stages in the Four Days of Dunkirk.