Liquigas-Cannondale and Saxo Bank in talks over possible merger
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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Liquigas-Cannondale and Saxo Bank in talks over possible merger

by Ben Atkins at 10:21 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Italian team may lose sponsor, while Danish outfit lacks WorldTour points

peter saganAccording to la Gazzetta dello Sport, Roberto Amadio and Paolo Zani of Liquigas-Cannondale have reportedly had a conversation with Team Saxo Bank owner Bjarne Riis about a possible merger in 2013. Both teams have issues that could threaten their continued existence, which a merger could at least partly solve.

The Liquigas-Cannondale team was created in 2005 - as Liquigas-Bianchi - but the current deal with the bottled gas company is set to end this year. The team has ongoing deals with bike provider Cannondale, and several smaller sponsors, but without Liquigas it would be unable to continue at the current level.

Team Saxo Bank meanwhile, has no such problem, with the Danish bank committed to sponsor his team, Riis has fewer financial worries. The teams lacklustre results so far this season however, leave it languishing at the foot of the International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour table, which could make qualification for the sport’s top division in 2013 difficult.

A merger between the two teams could give the Liquigas-Cannondale stars the financial support they need, while guaranteeing Riis another year in the WorldTour.

alberto contadorA secure footing in the WorldTour could also give Riis the guarantee he needs to offer to Alberto Contador when the two-time Tour de France winner’s suspension ends in August. Since the team stood by him through his unsuccessful Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) defence, Contador is rumoured to be returning to Saxo Bank for the remainder of the 2012 season, but may well look elsewhere for 2013.

If a newly merged team could offer the Spanish rider the financial, and sporting support that he requires then he may well stay put. Additionally, according to current WorldTour regulations, a rider returning from suspension does not score points for his team for another two years. This means that even if Contador should win the Vuelta a España, which he is favourite to do, the result will be no use to Saxo Bank in its 2013 application.

Liquigas-Cannondale will be holding onto two-time Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso, as well as Slovakian prodigy Peter Sagan, but will be losing 2010 Vuelta a España winner Vincenzo Nibali, who is rumoured to have already agreed terms with Astana. While Basso doubtless still holds Grand Tour ambitions, an incoming Contador would be less of a clash than it would be if Nibali was sticking around.

One of the biggest obstacles to any deal however, could be the ongoing contract with Cannondale. Contador has long had a personal contract with Specialized, which is how Astana came to be riding the American company’s bikes, and it might not be too happy with the idea of him crossing over to one of its big rivals.

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