Riis not panicking despite ongoing search for second sponsor
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Riis not panicking despite ongoing search for second sponsor

by Conal Andrews at 2:19 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Almost a year ago Team Saxo Bank’s owner Bjarne Riis learned that the secondary sponsor he had lined up, IT Factory, had collapsed. The company was a victim of fraud by its CEO Stein Bagger, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in June.

Riis has had no luck in finding a replacement sponsor of that scale and perhaps as a result of that, several key riders have left. Karsten Kroon has gone to BMC, while Jurgen Van Goolen (Omega Pharma Lotto), Lars Bak (Team Columbia HTC), Matthew Goss (Team Columbia HTC), Kurt Asle Arvesen (Team Sky), Jason McCartney (Team RadioShack) and Marcus Ljungqvist (directeur sportif, Team Sky) have also departed.

"It's not the case that we won’t have a cycling team if we don’t get a major sponsor over the next two, three or four months,” said Riis, according to Feltet.dk. “I truly believe that we have proven that we are good, despite losing a major sponsor almost a year ago. We must make do with what we have, and I think we are doing very well. We are still one of the world's best cycling teams, and we will also be next year, " says Riis.

Part of his difficulties are the ongoing improvements shown by Fabian Cancellara and Andy Schleck, or rather the effects of that on their worth.  After a difficult start to the year, Cancellara won the Tour de Suisse and the Swiss championships in June, then grabbed a stage and wore yellow for several days in the Tour de France. After that he took two stages in the Vuelta and took the world championship time trial for the third time in four years.

Schleck finished a fine second in the Tour de France, as well as winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Luxembourg road title. Both riders have consequently increased their market value, ramping up the demands on the budget.

The team has 56 million Kroner annual budget, approximately 7.5 million Euro. While it’s clear that a greater amount would make things more comfortable for the team, Saxo Bank company director Lars Seier Christensen indicated that there are no plans for the main sponsor to put in more.

"At present it is clear that we have a level which we readily find appropriate,” he said. “We look forward to 2010 where we are with a team which again is among the world's strongest.”


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