Friday, January 20, 2012

Team Saxo Bank - Ghost Team

Team boss Bjarne Riis.
Ever since Alberto Contador's case started a large amount of great riders have been signing contracts with Team Saxo Bank as his replacement or as luxury gregario in the mountains. At least in the press. Fact is that Team Saxo Bank hasn't signed a single one of all these riders.

Some riders they didn't have the funds to sign while other riders never were more than just a rumor. I thought it could be interesting to take a look at some of the riders who turned out to be nothing but ghosts.

Tony Martin (signed with Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
Bjarne Riis was very interested in signing Tony Martin when Team Highroad closed, but even though Saxo Bank had a an extra bag of money ready, the German rider decided to go elsewhere.

Thor Hushovd (signed with BMC)
It was very obvious during last year's Tour de France that Bjarne Riis would have loved to secure Thor Hushovd as Saxo Bank rider in 2012, but when Thor Hushovd saw the amount of zeros BMC could put on his paycheck he chose to join Phillipe Gilbert.

Denis Menchov (signed with Katusha)
Like last time Denis Menchov needed a new team, the press was fast to link the Russian rider with Bjarne Riis. According to the rumors Menchov had already had several conversations with Riis about a contract, but with an annual payment of €1.8 Euros, Riis didn't have the money (nor the desire?) to sign Menchov on for 2012.

Juanjo Cobo (signed with Movistar)
After winning the Vuelta España Juanjo Cobo signed a €800.000 contract with GEOX just to see the shoe company withdraw their sponsorship a few days later. Rumors had it that Cobo would head to Team Saxo Bank instead, but I think everyone 'involved' in that knew that would never happen.

Stefano Garzelli (re-signed with Acqua e Sapone)
Recently Stefano Garzelli was linked to Team Saxo Bank after his Italian team Acqua e Sapone didn't get invited to the Giro d'Italia where Garzelli had planned to end his career. After La Gazzetta bought the story, Garzelli himself said that it in fact was last summer he was negotiating with Team Saxo Bank, but ended up staying at Acqua e Sapone anyway. For what reason I don't know, but I guess he owed the team that much and of course thought they would be invited to the Giro.

Vladimir Karpets (signed with Movistar)
After a disappointing time with his fellow countrymen at Katusha, Vladimir Karpets felt the time was ready for a change. According to a recent interview with French site Velochrono, Karpets was very tempted to sign a contract with Bjarne Riis and Team Saxo Bank but decided to go to Movistar and his old boss Eusebio Unzué. "If I hadn't sign the contract with Movistar I would been going to Saxo Bank", he says. Karpets would have been a great help for Contador, plus a good rider for the one week stage races. Shame Bjarne Riis couldn't convince him.

Damiano Cunego (re-signed with Lampre)
Before the beginning of the 2011 season Damiano Cunego had a chance to change team for the first time in his career but decided to stay loyal to Lampre. The former Giro d'Italia rider had an offer from Bjarne Riis on the table but like all the riders above the ink never touched the paper - at least not the paper saying Team Saxo Bank at the top.

Other riders linked to Bjarne Riis and Team Saxo Bank are Chris FroomeAlejandro Valverde, Christopher Horner & Jakob Fulgsang (likely to sign next year) just to name a few. It's true that if Alberto Contador is a superior this year as he was in the Giro d'Italia last year, he doesn't need that one last man in the mountains, but it sure wouldn't have made his chances of success any smaller if just one of the mentioned riders was there to help him.

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