Riis to miss start of Giro due to ongoing sponsorship talks
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Monday, May 3, 2010

Riis to miss start of Giro due to ongoing sponsorship talks

by Conal Andrews at 7:09 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Team Saxo Bank owner Bjarne Riis would often be expected to be at the start of major races such as this coming weekend’s Giro d’Italia, but the Dane will give the opening stages a miss. He’s got good reason to do so, as the future of the team could depend on it.

"I'm just so busy with meetings in the period ahead that I do not have time to go to Holland," said Riis to Politiken.dk. He gave the impression that it was directly linked to the drive to find a backer for 2011 onwards.

"Efforts to secure the team's future are still in a very crucial stage, because everything will have to have fallen into place before the Tour de France starts on July third.”

He is also due to travel to the US for meetings around about the time of the Tour of California.

Riis hints that things are heading in the right direction, although he is mindful not to jump the gun. “I think it looks reasonable, but I won’t say anything more until everything falls into place.”

His search became necessary after Saxo Bank exercised an option in its contract to end the association with the team one year early. It had originally been due to back the Danish squad until the end of 2011.

The quest for a new title backer has been aided by a very successful spring, which saw Fabian Cancellara storm to victory in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, as well as taking the E3 Prijs. Matti Breschel landed the Dwars door Vlaanderen with his own solo move, and Juan José Haedo snagged the Rund um Koln and a stage of the Volta a Catalunya. Jens Voigt also picked up a stage of the Volta a Catalunya.

In recent days, Richie Porte was a surprise winner of the time trial in the Tour de Romandie and Alex Rasmussen was first to the line in the GP Herning.

Saxo Bank has jumped up the world rankings, going from a lowly 19th place to fifth in the standings. The only team to net more points in April were Omega Pharma-Lotto, which benefited from a superb spring by Philippe Gilbert.

The push for UCI points – and sponsorship – will continue in the weeks ahead. Andy and Frank Schleck didn’t have the success they wanted in the Ardennes Classics but were prominent and clearly in good form; their preparation for the Tour de France appears to be on track, and they should both pick up wins in lead-up to the July event.


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