Menchov to take Contador's spot at Saxo Bank?
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Menchov to take Contador's spot at Saxo Bank?

by Samuel Morrison at 5:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Russian cyclist – 3rd Tour, 1st Giro – may leave Geox for Saxo Bank

Russian Denis Menchov may lead Saxo Bank at the Tour de France this year if Alberto Contador receives a doping suspension.

Menchov finished third at the Tour de France last year, 2'01" behind Spaniard Contador and 1'22" behind Luxembourger Andy Schleck. He left team Rabobank for Geox-TMC this off-season, but risks missing the Tour de France. Geox, a second division team, learnt last week that it failed to receive an invitation.

Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport reported today that Saxo Bank's owner, Bjarne Riis may contract 33-year-old Menchov. Riis built his team for a Grand Tour leader, last year it was Andy Schleck and this year it was to be Alberto Contador. This off-season, Riis signed Contador's Spanish helpers Daniel Navarro, Jesús Hernández and Benjamin Noval.

Contador, however, tested positive for Clenbuterol at the Tour de France last year. The UCI released the result on September 30, after Contador had won the race and agreed to leave Astana for Saxo Bank. He faces a likely suspension of one to two years and the loss of his third Tour title, and Riis will lose his leader.

Riis' other option is to lead with second-year professional, Australian Richie Porte. Porte had an impressive debut last year. He held the leader's pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia, going on to finish seventh and win the young riders competition. However, he is not a proven Grand Tour leader.

"I have a lot of improvement," said Port yesterday, "and I mean I am improving day by day."

Menchov appears to be a logical fit. Riis will have the extra budget with the money saved by not paying Contador's €4.5m annual contract. Menchov will have to break his contract, which runs through 2012.

Riis will join Contador this afternoon at a press in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Contador will speak a likely one-year suspension from the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC).

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