Riis unveils Saxo Bank Tour de France team with ‘really good feeling’
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Friday, June 22, 2012

Riis unveils Saxo Bank Tour de France team with ‘really good feeling’

by VeloNation Press at 6:56 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Without Contador, Danish squad will chase stages rather than go for general classification

Saxo BankSaying that he is looking forward to taking some risks and following an aggressive, attacking template this year, Bjarne Riis has named the nine riders who will represent Saxo Bank in the Tour de France. Unlike last season when the team was focussed around Alberto Contador and his ultimately-unsuccessful bid to take the Giro-Tour double, this time round the team will hunt stages and possibly the mountains jersey in the race.

“We are entering this year's Tour de France with our eyes set on stage wins and with the aim to make an impact on the race,” Riis said today. “I'm convinced that this is possible. We have tried to put together a group of riders that will enable us to open up possibilities, and I believe we have found a great mix of experience, aggressiveness and different competencies.”

The team will feature four Danish riders, namely the climber Chris Anker Sørensen, namesake Nicki Sørensen, Michael Mørkøv and Anders Lund, the 2011 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Nick Nuyens of Belgium, fellow Classics rider Karsten Kroon (Netherlands) and the Portuguese climber Sergio Paulinho. It is completed by the Argentinian sprinter Juan José Haedo plus the Australian Jonathan Cantwell.

Several of those who backed Contador last year are being saved for the Vuelta a España, where they will support the Spaniard as he aims to win that race for the second time in his career. He is suspended until August 4th, and has marked out the Vuelta as his big target for 2012.

While the team will adopt a flexible approach and take things day by day, Riis outlined where he thinks specific riders can potentially shine. “We will bring JJ for the sprints, and we have some trusted helpers around him. In Chris we have a rider with the potential to really influence the mountain stages and maybe he is even a guy to watch for the mountain jersey,” he said. “And lead by Nick and Nicki, we field a group of riders with both power and flair to go in breakaways.”

Last year’s structure and approach was all about supporting Contador, and so individual riders will get much clearer opportunities this time round to chase their own success. Riis acknowledges that things will be very different and, in doing so, recognises that the overall title will be impossible for the team to get.

He accepts how things are and insists he’s looking forward to playing things differently. “I see this as an exiting challenge and a possibility to take some risks that would have been practically impossible under other circumstances,” he said. “I actually have a really good feeling about the Tour, and I don't think it would be wise to underestimate our team.”

The squad will have extra incentive and pressure to chase results as Contador’s points won’t contribute to the team’s total due to the UCI rules regarding riders returning from a suspension. Riis has hinted that he may try to fight this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport but the outcome of that would be uncertain. Because of that, his riders will be aware that the team’s chances of getting a UCI ProTeam licence for 2013 depends on the points that they can each clock up between now and the end of the year. The Tour offers a chunk of points and will be a big part of that.

The Danish team is currently last of the eighteen teams in the WorldTour rankings, having just 44 points compared to the 803 amassed by top-ranked squad Sky Procycling. Riis will hope that the Tour marks a turn-around point and that his riders can start clocking up scores in this area.

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