Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has this morning been confirmed as having signed for Danish ProTour outfit Riis Racing for two years. Team owner Bjarne Riis also revealed that Saxo Bank, which earlier this year announced that it would terminate its sponsorship a year early at the end of this season, will continue as a title sponsor for 2011.
IT service firm SunGard, an existing sponsor of the team, steps up to become co-title sponsor, and the team will now be called SunGard-Saxo Bank.
The Spanish cyclist, who said last week that he would not be renewing his contract with Astana at the end of this season, has also set himself an unprecedented – and some may say impossible – target of winning all three of cycling’s Grand Tours, the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta, next season.
Contador, who last month won the Tour de France for the third time in four years, is already one of only five cyclists to have won all three Grand Tours, winning the Vuelta and the Giro d’Italia in 2008, a year in which his Astana team was not invited to the Tour, but none of the other riders to have done so - Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx managed to win all three in the same year.
At a press conference in Copenhagen this morning, Riis said: ”Alberto is a world class rider and it's with great pride that I can welcome him onboard the team for the next two years. With three Tour de France victories on his resume and a position as number one on the world rankings, he is sure to stay at the very top for several years to come. Alberto will get a solid, strong and loyal team around him to support him in all terrains and I'm sure that this will be a fruitful alliance.”
That team, of course, will be missing the Schleck brothers, who confirmed last week that they would not be renewing their contracts at the end of the season, their likely destination being the new Luxembourg-based team being put together by the team’s former press officer, Brian Nygaard.
There are likely to be a number of other personnel changes as a result of the Schlecks’ departure and Contador’s arrival, although one rider expected to remain is World and Olympic Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara, who together with the Spaniard will put the team in a very strong position in team time trials next season.
Reflecting on his move, Contador said: ”I'm very happy and excited about signing a two year contract with Riis Cycling. With the unique philosophy and team spirit the team offers I'm ensured solid support from the sponsors, administration and staff of riders that I'm looking forward to becoming a part of myself. Historically, Riis Cycling has always been successful and together, we will have the ability to play a very important role in the world of cycling in the years to come.”
During last month’s Tour de France, Riis announced that SunGard had agreed a two-year deal to become co-title sponsor of the team, and that it would be joined by another, unnamed, title sponsor, which has now agreed to step aside following Saxo Bank’s decision to continue with its sponsorship.
The team’s full title is now “Saxo Bank-SunGard Professional Cycling Team,” and this morning, Riis said: “I am very happy to announce Saxo Bank and SunGard as future partners. With these two companies committed to the team, we have a solid financial foundation for the future.”
The Dane continued: “Saxo Bank and SunGard have ensured that the Team can continue its essential role within the world of cycling and will be able to maintain competing at the highest level. With Saxo Bank and SunGard as two strong backers, our future looks very bright. I am grateful for their commitment and I am confident that this will be mutually beneficial to all involved.”
Kim Fournais and Lars Seier Christensen, Co-CEOs and co-founders of Saxo Bank, said: “Bjarne Riis has delivered excellent results over the past couple of years and has an impressive plan for 2011.We believe it's important to recognize an unprecedented opportunity when you see one and therefore, we have decided to continue our sponsorship for one more year.”
They continued: “In Saxo Bank, we always aim for the top and we believe Bjarne Riis and his Team can reach that goal next year. While our past collaboration with Bjarne Riis has been fantastic, we also know and trust the new co-title sponsor, SunGard, and that has made this strategic decision an even easier one to make.”
Brian Robins, chief marketing officer of SunGard, added: “We are pleased to extend our sponsorship of Riis Cycling in 2011 and join Saxo Bank as a co-title sponsor. We share Saxo Bank's enthusiasm for this project and we are looking forward to renewing our collaboration. The Saxo Bank-SunGard Professional Cycling Team represents a fantastic opportunity to gain visibility for our brand in front of a global audience.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.