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Alberto Contador says he’s sure he made the right choice to join Saxo Bank and Danish sport director Bjarne Riis for the 2011-12 seasons.
Speaking on Spanish television during the broadcast of Wednesday’s mountain stage into Andorra, the three-time Tour winner says Riis is just the type of sport director he needs to consolidate his role as the preeminent stage racer in the peloton today.
“I am very satisfied to join Riis next season. He’s a reference among sport directors who has a lot of respect from his riders,” Contador said of Riis. “I like a sport director who speaks clearly, who says what everyone has to do and to take command. Not all of them do that. The choice is a good one and I am confident that I won’t be wrong.”
With the Schleck brothers leaving Riis and bringing several key riders with them to form their own, Luxembourg-backed team, Contador said he is confident Saxo Bank will still be a competitive team in 2011.
“We will have a strong block of riders that will be one of the best teams in the world,” Contador said.
Contador said he spoke with “several teams” before deciding on joining Saxo Bank in a two-year deal worth a reported 5 million euros over two seasons. The Spanish rider said he didn’t decide to join Riis until after the 2010 Tour and that the deal came together very quickly.
He was also speaking with Caisse d’Epargne sport director Eusebio Unzue, but said that the new Movistar sponsor, which will take over the team legacy for three seasons starting in 2011, did not become finalized until after the ink had dried on his deal with Riis.
“We were always in contact with Eusebio and we waited as long as possible. He understands that I had to make a decision about my future,” Contador explained. “I’m very happy that they have found a sponsor. It would be a pity to lose such a team with so much history. … Without a doubt, I’d love to ride for a Spanish team, but right now, the economy in Spain isn’t so great. And to do a team in the right way, you need 10 million euros per season.”
Contador also confirmed that he will likely race the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in 2011. This year, Contador focused exclusively on the Tour and raced only one grand tour.
Speaking of Andy Schleck, Contador said he expects him to be one of his top rivals for years to come.
“(Andy) will be one of the maximum rivals, but not the only one. He was the strongest rival this year, but there were a lot of factors that kept me from being my best this year. What was sure is that I was not at the same level as I was in 2009 and that Andy was better than he was in 2009,” Contador said. “I am happy that I was able to pull off the victory even when I wasn’t in top shape and I am confident that I can regain my top fitness next year.”
Contador has already pulled the plug on his 2010 season and will not race again with Astana.