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Riis not losing sleep over ‘Leopard-Shack’ merger

  • By Andrew Hood
  • Published Sep. 6, 2011
  • Updated Sep. 7, 2011 at 9:23 AM EST

HARO, Spain (VN) — Bjarne Riis says he’s not worried about the fusion of RadioShack and Leopard-Trek for one simple reason: Alberto Contador.

Riis says the squad created by the merger of RadioShack and Leopard-Trek, which will join the Schleck brothers with grand-tour mastermind Johan Bruyneel, is not causing him to lose sleep.

“They can do what they want. I still have the best rider – Alberto Contador,” Riis told VeloNews on Tuesday. “And we will not have a bad team when the time comes for the Tour, either.”

Riis is watching with interest as many of his ex-pupils who left his Saxo Bank-Sungard fold last season to join the start-up Leopard-Trek are suddenly facing a very uncertain future.

Last year, the Schleck brothers joined Fabian Cancelllara, Jens Voigt, Stuart O’Grady and other key staff and riders in a mass exodus from Saxo Bank to create Leopard-Trek.

The squad was quickly hailed as cycling’s new super-team, but suddenly those dreams of grandeur have come grinding to a halt before the team finished its first season.

A handful of riders are set to join the structure of the two merged teams. Details remain sketchy as no one wants to discuss how two of the biggest teams in cycling will squeeze into one.

Several riders and staff will be out on the street, however, but it appears that the finer details of the deal are still being worked out.

Leopard-Trek riders at the Vuelta a España were told not to talk to journalists Tuesday about the fast-developing story.

When asked about the sudden turn of events, Riis didn’t want to give too much away.

“It’s curious, but I have only heard the same rumors that everyone else has,” he said. “I shouldn’t say too much about it. It will be hard for some of the riders and staff to find jobs, and that’s too bad.”

Riis said that he remains confident that Contador will still be the rider to beat next year, regardless of what the new collaboration between Bruyneel and the Schleck brothers can come up with.

“Alberto is the best racer in the world and he’s on my team,” he said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Riis also confirmed that he will bolster the roster for the 2012 season.

“We are talking to riders, but we are not ready to reveal the names yet,” Riis said. “We will have a strong team for the Tour next year.”

The prospect of Riis and Bruyneel squaring off with teams loaded with Contador on one side and the Schleck brothers, and the rest of the RadioShack line-up, on the other, should make for a very interesting dynamic going into next season.

Whether Contador will be there to race remains to be seen. His fate will be decided in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in November.

FILED UNDER: News / Road / Tour de France TAGS: / /

Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood cut his journalistic teeth at Colorado dailies before the web boom opened the door to European cycling in the mid-1990s. Hood has covered every Tour de France since 1996 and has been VeloNews' European correspondent since 2002.

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