Fuglsang, Riis discuss the Saxo Bank contract that never was
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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fuglsang, Riis discuss the Saxo Bank contract that never was

by Conal Andrews at 12:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

It’s been a bewildering tale that, even now, doesn’t quite add up. Last October Saxo Bank announced that the talented young Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang had committed to three more years with the team, going as far as to quote the rider on his contract extension.

"I am enormously grateful for the perspective that the extension with Team Saxo Bank offers my career,” he said in a press release. “Now I know that I'll get the best development opportunities for the next three years on a team I truly care for.”

Later that month, he told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper that he had opted to stay with Saxo Bank, even though he could have earned more elsewhere.

“I have been happy to race with the team and I believe that here I have the best development opportunities,” he said. “I could certainly earn more at another team, but the new agreement with Team Saxo Bank is still much better than the one I signed for one and a half years ago. I have weighted the development [potential] higher than the economic.

“I think it is a good decision,” he continued. “I am really glad that I have secured a place for the next three years, even if I could have gotten more out of cycling for another team. I’m happy the way things are run here.”

However things took an unexpected turn in March when it was revealed that the trumpeted three year deal did not, in fact, exist.

“I have a contract with Jacob, but it is true that he has not signed it yet,” said Riis to Ekstra Bladet. “But I don’t see what the big problem is. Generally, it’s my belief that all riders on the team want to stay where they are. That's what I'm working from.”

Fuglsang said that the lack of a main sponsor after the end of the current season was the reason why things had changed.

“We were never fully in agreement and the press release announcing the contract was released too early due to a misunderstanding,” said Fuglsang. “Now we’ve completely set contract talks on hold.”

“I want to stay with Riis. But with the uncertainty that has arisen on the team's future, it is best to wait before I sign something.”

Latest developments:

This week, both Riis and Fuglsang have spoken to SPN.dk, and it is clear that things are still no closer to being resolved. In fact, there is now an emphasis on the importance of the salary offer, something that was played down before.

“He puts pressure on himself when he believes he is worth more. It is not right that he breaks an agreement, but I must just accept it,” said Riis.

Fuglsang explained that at this point in time, the financial returns are a big part of his reluctance to sign. “I think in a sense I am worth more. You are obviously not worth more than people will pay… I believe that I can get a better contract. I know that several teams are interested in me.

“I thought we agreed on the conditions, but when I saw the contract, we were not quite agreed. Ultimately, we reached what I thought was the starting point, but then I said no to signing. I would like to stay open to sign the second page. It is primarily because of the sponsorship situation.”

Contrasted to his earlier statements, the change in his position is a clear about-turn. One possibility is that Fuglsang has now decided that he does deserve more, going back on his initial quotes that money was not the most important factor in his decision. Another possible scenario is that Riis may have decided that he can’t pay as much as originally discussed due to the lack of a main sponsor for 2011.

It’s impossible to say which is which, or indeed if another reason exists. But essentially what this all means is that the double Tour of Denmark winner, a rider who Riis described as ‘without a doubt one of the biggest talents in cycling,’ could well be on his way out of the team.

In the meantime, Fuglsang has nine months left in his contract. He pledges to work hard, both for himself and for others. And while he’s been hampered by a knee injury this season, he is confident that he can do big things in the near future.

“I believe that I can win races that are one step higher. I see myself as a crucial part of the team,” he said. “It does not necessarily mean that I think I only have to win, but I can help in the Classics. I can help Frank and Andy [Schleck] to win.”

He also pleded to be “110 percent” ready for the Tour de France. That’s the most important time of the year for finalising contracts for the following season. Fuglsang knows that a strong performance there is essential to finding a good deal. Whether he ultimate re-ups with Riis or heads elsewhere, he knows that impressing in July is what counts most in cycling.



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