Bjarne Riis remains confident his Saxo Bank-SunGard crew will remain competitive in 2011 despite the departure of many of its best riders.
With the Schleck brothers leading an exodus to the new Luxembourg team, set to be formally introduced this week, Riis says he’s turned the page and considers the Saxo Bank team “new” for the season to come.
“A new year has just started, and I would like to use this occasion to express how much I look forward to this coming season. I’m more motivated than ever before,” Riis wrote on the team’s Web site Saturday.
“In many ways, I’m now the leader of a new team after a turbulent year that measured on the sporting outcome was so successful, that we once again finished as the world’s best team,” Riis continued. “But 2010 was also a season characterized by the fact that a number of our riders and staff wanted new challenges elsewhere. Therefore, we have welcomed many new faces in our organization. But at the same time, the philosophy of the team and our values remains the same.”
Riis’s comments came as the team unrolled its new-look jersey for the upcoming season.
The Danish director didn’t comment on the uncertain future of new recruit Alberto Contador, who is facing a possible two-year ban, but Riis did insist he’s optimistic about what he characterized as a “new beginning.”
“On the whole, I strongly believe in our new beginning. It’s been a pleasure to meet the new riders at our first team camp on Fuerteventura, and it really made me proud to see how the ‘old’ riders worked hard to help welcome the new riders,” Riis said. “I think we have already created a strong team spirit, and I’m sure that this work makes a difference for us during races.
I’m also deeply impressed with my entire staff — from sports directors to mechanics and soigneurs. I honestly don’t remember that we have been better prepared for a new season than now.”
Saxo Bank will make its season debut in Australia this month with a strong team for the Tour Down Under.