Perhaps there’s no one north of the Pyrénées happier to see Alberto Contador back in a racing jersey than SaxoBank-Sungard boss Bjarne Riis.
The Danish team manager bet the bank on signing Contador to a multi-year, multi-million-euro contract only to discover weeks later that the Spanish climber’s future was in doubt after testing positive for traces of clenbuterol.
Riis told the Spanish daily AS that he’s pleased to see Contador lining up to race this week at the Volta ao Algarve.
“We are happy to see Alberto back on the bike again,” Riis told AS. “It’s been several hard months of uncertainty, but it could have only turned out like this because he’s innocent.”
Following the exodus of several of the team’s marquee riders last fall to form the new Leopard Trek team, Riis’s fate is tied to Contador’s. Without Contador, Riis doesn’t have a GC guarantee that the three-time Tour winner brings to any grand tour. With Contador, the Dane knows his squad is a front-line favorite to win.
“We are always going to support Alberto,” Riis continued. “The Spanish federation ruling refused any other possibility and leaves no doubt: it’s a case of accidental ingestion and he didn’t cheat.”
Despite the threat of a pending appeal from the UCI or WADA, Riis said the best thing for Contador to do right now is return to competition.
“It’s within their right (to appeal) and they have a month to do it,” Riis said. “We respect that they can appeal, but Alberto will always be innocent, his case is based on evidence. We’ll see what happens, but the most important thing now is that he’s racing again.”