Cycling-Contador still motivated for season -team boss

Reuters

Wed, 19 Jan 12:50:00 2011

Alberto Contador remains fully motivated despite his concerns over his provisional suspension and the threat of him missing the Tour de France, Saxo Bank team boss Bjarne Riis said on Wednesday.

"He (Contador) is scared but he is still extremely motivated by his job," Riis told Reuters in an interview at the season-opening Tour Down Under.

"During the pre-season camp, he was already way ahead of his team mates in the climbs. I know his lawyers built him the best possible defence."

Contador, who switched from Astana to Saxo Bank after winning the Tour last July, has been suspended since August pending a Spanish federation's (RFEC) ruling on his failed test. He has repeatedly said he is innocent.

"We are worried and we have been doing our best to protect him. We did all we could to sign the best rider in the world and I cannot imagine that he is not going to wear the Saxo Bank jersey," said Riis, who won the Tour in 1996 before admitting years later that he had used performance enhancing drugs.

A ruling by the RFEC is not expected before next month and the procedure could drag on as either the Spaniard or the UCI or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are likely to appeal the decision -- either because it will be seen as too harsh or too soft.

McQuaid told Reuters last week Contador was likely to miss the 2011 Tour because of the ongoing process.

"It's pure speculation," said Riis. "Of course, they found clenbuterol in his system but the concentration was infinitesimal.

"He did not win the Tour de France thanks to this. It's even surprising that it appeared only one day (in his system)."

Riis refuses to consider the 2011 season with Contador out of the picture.

"I don't want to think about it. For the moment we work normally, as if his season was about to start," he explained.

Riis's outfit was subject to many changes during the off-season, with the Schleck brothers and Swiss Fabian Cancellara having left to be part of the Luxembourg riders' new team, Leopard-Trek.

"Some 17 to 20 people left Saxo Bank," said Riis.

"I now have a team that is less strong but it is still a nice team. (Australian) Richie Porte is a huge talent and will be a Tour de France protagonist in one or two years."

Until then, Riis has to rely on Contador -- if he can make it to the Tour de France.

 

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