MADRID (VN) — Bjarne Riis dodged a bullet after Danish investment bank Saxo Bank stepped up its commitment to keep the team alive for 2014.
Riis has been struggling to fill the 6 million-euro funding gap left with the acrimonious departure of Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov.
Saxo Bank, which has been a Riis sponsor since 2008, has promised financial backing to guarantee the team for 2014 in what’s an important season for Alberto Contador to take on Chris Froome and Sky.
“This renewed partnership means that for now, the team will once again be Team Saxo Bank. This will give us give time needed to continue this work without too much stress,” Riis said. “We are searching for additional sponsors in order to extend our ambitions for next year and going forward. We are very confident that we will achieve our goals.”
As Riis mentioned, he is continuing to search for other major sponsors, but the Saxo Bank guarantee will allow the team to meet looming financial deadlines to maintain a valid racing license for 2014.
The news is a boon for Riis and Contador, who both know they need a strong sponsor to keep together the squad for the upcoming season.
Riis said the Saxo Bank support will allow him to keep together a strong arsenal of riders, such as Rafa Majka, Nicolas Roche, Roman Kreuziger, and Michael Rogers.
Contador admitted he was not up to his normal winning ways in 2013, and promised to take on Froome for next year.
“I was missing something this year. I had a great team around me, but I couldn’t finish it off in the key moments,” Contador said. “This news gives me an extra motivation going into next season, knowing that I will have the same great team around me.”
Saxo Bank president Lars Seiere Christensen said backing cycling is simply good business. He said it’s a perfect vehicle for Saxo Bank, which has offices in 26 cities around the world.
“In financial circles, cycling is the new golf,” Seiere Christensen said. “For the number of impressions and media exposure, cycling remains the best bargain in sport sponsorship.”
Contador and Riis have been traveling across Europe the past week to meet and greet Saxo Bank supporters in a campaign to assure the team’s continuity in 2014.
The pair met with bank officials Sunday at the Giro di Lombardia, and then rode with bank officials and employees in meetings in Zurich, Milan, and Paris. After Madrid, the pair is heading to London to continue the good will tour.
For Contador, the assurance of backing from Saxo Bank will allow him to finish out his deal with Riis, which continues through 2015. He shot down rumors that there was a breakdown between he and Riis, and that he was considering leaving the team.
“This is a testimony that all these rumors are false, I am very happy with Bjarne,” Contador said. “We have a great relationship, better than I’ve ever had with a sport director. This is the best choice for me, and the best guarantee that I can have for next year.”