Saxo Bank to take over full title sponsorship of Riis Cycling, SunGard leaves
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Saxo Bank to take over full title sponsorship of Riis Cycling, SunGard leaves

by Shane Stokes at 5:33 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Team budget said to be unaffected

Saxo BankStressing that there will be no effect on the budget of the team, Bjarne Riis’ squad has announced that Saxo Bank will up its involvement and take over sole sponsorship for 2012. Co-sponsor SunGard will step down, disappearing from the team name.

Alberto Contador’s team will consequently be known by sole Saxo Bank title. According to Riis Cycling, each of those concerned ‘have agreed that the timing is now right for a smooth transition, where SunGard will discontinue its sponsorship.’

Next season will be the fifth consecutive year where Saxo Bank has backed the squad. While it considered ending its support prior to 2011, the signing of Contador convinced it to stay on board and, according to the team, that commitment has now grown.

“Since 2008 Saxo Bank and Riis Cycling have proven to be a great match,” said Riis in the statement. “I am proud that a truly professional company such as Saxo Bank not only continues to see the commercial benefits in sponsoring our teams, but also shows its commitment and faith in our work by stepping up to become the sole title sponsor.

“This is evidence of a great partnership, and I'm convinced there are many more gains to be realized from this relationship in the future.”

The statement suggests that the decision is Saxo Bank’s alone, but there are also possible hints that SunGard itself took the decision to leave a year earlier than planned.

Saxo Bank co-CEOs and co-founders present it as a decision to ramp up their involvement. “Saxo Bank was offered an option to become the sole title sponsor of Riis Cycling, which was an offer we could not turn down,” they stated.

“From the outset, we have sincerely wanted to support Bjarne Riis and his team and with our continued geographical expansion, the sponsorship also makes good sense commercially. While the decision to continue as full title sponsor is a strategic one, our past collaboration with the team has been fantastic, and we are looking forward to watching Team Saxo Bank race across the streets of the world in 2012.”

Riis’ reference to SunGard and the company’s own response suggest it felt the time was right to withdraw. Weighing all the statements up, it’s difficult to tell if SunGard’s decision came before Saxo Bank agreeing to up its involvement.

Bjarne Riis“We have had a great partnership with SunGard,” said the Dane. “I'm forever grateful for SunGard believing in us and stepping up to sponsoring the team at title level at what was a very difficult moment for the team. But SunGard did never hide that this wasn't part of their long-term strategy.”

George Thomas, SunGard's vice president of communications, echoed this last point. “We have had a successful partnership with Riis Cycling over the past two years and we are pleased that we were part of the team's success,” he said. “The decision to end our sponsorship was a business decision and not related to the team. We know we are leaving them with a great sponsor in Saxo Bank and we wish them much continued success.”

The team’s future is a little uncertain as Alberto Contador is facing a hearing before CAS. It runs from next Monday to Thursday and is the result of an appeal by WADA and the UCI against his clearing by the Spanish federation RFEC. El Pais suggested this week that Contador has agreed to a lie detector test, and also stated that WADA could be pursuing a transfusion as a cause of the rider’s Clenbuterol positive. Neither of the parties have verified if this is the case.

Riis’ squad is hoping to renew its ProTeam licence for 2012. It has the points to do so providing Contador is not sanctioned by CAS. If he is suspended, the UCI has said that it may reassess any awarding of a licence.

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