Daniele Bennati is heading to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank next season in what appears to be a train of riders leaving the beleaguered RadioShack-Nissan team.
Bennati joins Oliver Zaugg in jettisoning to Saxo-Tinkoff for 2013. Other confirmed exits include Jakob Fulgsang to Astana and Robert Wagner.
Team boss Johan Bruyneel told VeloNews that there would be departures, saying that several riders and staff did not adjust well to the merger between Leopard-Trek and RadioShack-Nissan at the beginning of 2012.
Bruyneel’s troubles with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation — added to reports that riders were not paid their salaries earlier this season, Fränk Schleck’s doping positive at the Tour de France and Andy Schleck’s disastrous season marred by injury — have only heightened doubts about the stability of the team.
Bruyneel, however, insisted that any money troubles have been resolved and that riders are getting paid. The core of the team remains in place for 2013, Bruyneel insists, and it is on solid financial footing. Chris Horner, Andreas Klöden, Jens Voigt, Ben King and Yaroslav Popovych are all confirmed for next season.
A few riders are set to join RadioShack-Nissan, including two-time Tour of Flanders winner Stijn Devolder and Robert Kiserlovski. Bob Jungels, who has dominated the espoirs calendar this year, is expected to move up to the elite team.
That hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning in Europe. There are reports in the Luxembourg media that the Schleck brothers have a standing offer to join Astana, while the owner of the new Swiss team IAM Racing confirmed to VeloNews that he is in talks with Swiss superstar Fabian Cancellara about joining the start-up squad.
Bennati, meanwhile, said he is motivated to join Bjarne Riis’s Saxo-Tinkoff team, where he will be able to ride the classics and take aim for the sprints. An experienced rider, Bennati has only won one race in 2012 — a stage at the Vuelta a España — mainly due to lingering health problems.
The arrival of Tinkoff Bank as co-sponsor gives Riis the cash to add some firepower to what’s been a rather thin lineup the past two seasons.
Alberto Contador is naturally the team’s focus, with the Tour de France being the top goal next year for the newly crowned Vuelta winner.
Other confirmed arrivals to Saxo-Tinkoff include Nicolas Roche and Matti Breschel. Confirmed departures are Dani Navarro to Cofidis and David Tanner to Rabobank.