Saxo Bank team manager, Bjarne Riis revealed he has a plan B in place for next year if he loses Tour de France winner Alberto Contador to a doping ban for Clenbuterol.
“I’ve thought of a plan B,” he said yesterday. “But what it involves, I will not go into here and now.”
Contador announced on September 30 that at the Tour de France he tested positive for Clenbuterol, a drug to help breathing and weight-loss. Later that day, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said that it is investigating the positive and that it provisionally suspended Contador.
Contador had already ended his season with team Astana following his third Tour de France win on July 25. However, if the Spanish Federation bans him then his new boss, Saxo Bank’s Riis will be in a jam.
Riis announced he signed Contador for the next two years on August 3, a week after his star Tour de France riders Fränk and Andy Schleck announced they were leaving to race for a new Luxembourg-based team. Andy Schleck was the only cyclist to match Contador at this year’s Tour de France, and he finished second by only 39 seconds.
In addition to the Schleck brothers, Riis loses Fabian Cancellara, Stuart O’Grady, Matti Breschel, Jens Voigt and Jakob Fuglsang at the end of the year. To help beef his one-day classics team, he announced on Saturday that he signed Belgian Nick Nuyens.
“Nuyens is a good outsider. A typical underdog,” said Riis. “I hope to get him back to the level he had before.”
But what is the Riis’ Tour de France plan B? Who will replace Contador?
No one can match Contador’s Grand Tour record, he has won the last five three-week races that he has entered (three times the Tour de France and in 2008, the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia). Riis will rely heavier on Gustav Larsson, Richie Porte and Chris Sørensen, supported by the Spanish riders he signed for Contador.
Australia’s Porte finished seventh and won the young riders classification at the Giro d’Italia this year, his first year as a professional.
Riis has time to plan as he waits for the UCI to decide on Contador’s case. Though, on Friday he and Contador heard some bad news. Italian professional Alessandro Colò received a one-year ban due to his positive for Clenbuterol. As with Contador, Colò claims the substance entered his body via contaminated meat. A urine test revealed he had 200 picograms in his body, four times more than Contador at 50pg.
“Right now it’s just waiting for what comes from the UCI on the Contador case,” added Riis. “We can not do anything about it.”
Last week, for the first time since August, Riis met with Contador to discuss the case and its implications.
“I have no reason not to believe in him,” he told Denmark’s DR. “I am afraid that it will end up in a political game, and that is not what I hope because then it will be extremely unfortunate for all parties.”
The UCI will reportedly announce its decision this week.