Saxo Bank step up team support
Saxo Bank will step up its support of Alberto Contador's team next season in order to fill the shortfall left by the imminent departure of co-sponsor Tinkoff Credit Systems.
The squad has been backed by the two banks together for the past year and a half, but Russian billionaire Oleg Tinkov is walking away at the end of the season following a breakdown in his relationship with team owner Bjarne Riis.
There had been fears for the team's future and speculation that riders would have to take pay cuts to help cover the financial deficit. However, at a press conference in Madrid on Thursday, Riis confirmed Saxo Bank would be increasing their investment while the search for a second sponsor continued.
Riis said: "For Saxo Bank to stay with us and at the same time step up its commitment to Riis Cycling makes me both proud and grateful.
"We will have a team for next year. It is a team that is as strong as it has been this year. It is very important that we have the same strength of riders. The quality will be the same, and hopefully even better."
Contador was present at the press conference and dismissed speculation linking him with a move to a team expected to be set up by double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso ahead of the 2015 season.
The two-time Tour de France winner is tied to Saxo Bank until the end of 2015 and while he acknowledged the appeal of Alonso's project, he has no interest in breaking his contract.
The 30-year-old Spaniard said: "My relationship and my contract is with Saxo Bank. Long-term, it could be a possibility, but today and for the next two years, my relationship is with Saxo Bank."
Saxo Bank first invested in Riis Cycling in 2008 and the team has since won the Tour de France twice - through Carlos Sastre in 2008 and Andy Schleck in 2010 - and the Vuelta a Espana once - through Contador in 2012.
Contador has failed to replicate that form in 2013 and while he admitted the season has been disappointing, he insisted talk of a rift with the team's management was false.
He added: "There have been much talk of people going out, coming in, leaving, arriving and also talk of a crisis between myself and Bjarne. All these comments that have appeared in the press are false.
"This year, we haven't managed to get the results that we had in the past. The programming has not been the best. I started racing very early and this has influenced the rest of the season. I have now got extra motivation to meet the objectives that I will set for 2014."
Contador confirmed that, barring injury, he would definitely ride next year's Vuelta a Espana. He added: "Unless there is something unexpected, I will be at the Vuelta and I hope to have a good race."
Tinkoff, who first invested in Riis Cycling ahead of the 2012 Tour de France, has already boasted on Twitter that he has found a new team and will make an announcement soon. It is widely expected to be Cannondale, the Italian-registered WorldTour team currently backed by the American bicycle manufacturer.