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Bjarne Riis admits he doesn’t have money to sign more riders for Saxo Bank

2011 Tour de France. Alberto Contador and Bjarne Riis at a press conference Thursday. AFP PHOTO PASCAL PAVANI
2011 Tour de France. Alberto Contador and Bjarne Riis at a press conference. AFP PHOTO PASCAL PAVANI

Alberto Contador would love to see another major climber to help him tackle the coming season, but SaxoBank-Sungard boss Bjarne Riis admits he doesn’t have the budget to make a blockbuster addition to his squad.

The sudden demise of Geox-TMC means there are several good riders desperate jobs, but Riis told the Danish newspaper Sporten.dk that he doesn’t have the money to pick up top talent such as Denis Menchov or Juanjo Cobo.

“It’s not going to happen,” Riis said. “People have to remember that I have a budget that I have to live with. I don’t have 500,000 euros, or 1 million or even 2 million to go out and pick up riders.”

Riis echoed comments he made to VeloNews on Tuesday that the lineup for next season will be strong enough to support Contador.

That assumes, of course, that Contador will be racing next season. The Court of Arbitration for Sport is set to hear his long-running clenbuterol case in late November. Riis said that he’s optimistic his star rider will be cleared of doping allegations and he’s planning the season around the assumption that Contador will be racing.

“We have a good team, as strong or stronger than in 2011,” he told Sporten. “I am happy with what we have to work with. Of course, I was following some riders, but overall I am very happy with the team.”

For 2012, Riis has signed seven new riders to round out the squad’s 25-rider lineup, though none of them are the top-level climbers that Contador says he’d like to see. Portuguese riders Bruno Pires and Sergio Paulinho will bolster the front line while former Saxo Bank riders Karsten Kroon and Anders Lund are back in the fold.

Riis admits he simply doesn’t have the deep pockets of some of the more well-funded teams like Sky or BMC.

“I don’t have a team like BMC, which can bring equally strong teams to the Giro and Tour. Our team is built around Contador and for that, we’re focusing on winning the Tour,” he continued. “The biggest objective for the coming season is the Tour.”

Contador, meanwhile, told reporters during a visit to a university near Madrid that he was hoping Riis could bring on some more firepower for the mountains.

“Riis is still working to see if we can bring on some additional strength, especially a climber. I would be happy with that, but I realize every rider has his own interests and I confide in my team,” Contador told Europa Press.

On the Leopard-Trek fusion with RadioShack, Contador said he admits it’s not ideal.

“It’s a merger that I would have preferred not to see,” he said. “It unites the experience and quality from one team with the other. But this also signifies a new challenge and motivation for me.”

Contador’s CAS hearing is set for November 21-24.

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