Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis received some welcome news over the weekend, after his title sponsor said it will continue to support the squad with or without the presence of Alberto Contador, currently suspended from competition due to a failed drug test.
Online trading and investment specialist Saxo Bank announded on Sunday that it would keep to its 2011 sponsorship deal regardless of whether Contador’s suspension for failing a test during the 2010 Tour de France for clenbuterol is upheld or not.
>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 5 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £5 delivered to your door <<
“I am truly happy and grateful to know that Saxo Bank sees the value in continuing their support of our team even before the adjudication and their decision to come through only underlines their integrity,” said Riis.
“The big mutual respect between us is a result of the strong and loyal partnership we have developed throughout the last couple of years.
“Obviously, I am proud of the confidence that Saxo Bank, SunGard and Specialized have in me and the team. Of course, we hope that Alberto is acquitted and can ride as planned in 2011 but for now, we hold our nerve and await what will happen.”
Riis’s team was suddenly in crisis after several key members left at the end of the 2010 season, and his new star rider Contador tested positive for a banned substance. Long-term Saxo Bank riders Andy and Frank Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, Stuart O’Grady and Jens Voigt will all leave the team for 2011, leaving a gaping hole in the squad’s roster.
Riis had hoped to build a Tour de France-winning team around new signing Contador, who was expected to bring several key domestiques with him. With authorities still looking into Contador’s clenbuterol positive and the Spaniard’s future in the sport looking uncertain, Riis must now move to plan B for the 2011 season.
On Saturday, the squad’s Jakob Fuglsang put in a strong performance to finish fourth in the Tour of Lombardy.