Photo: Yuzuru Sunada
Spain's Contador won his third Tour de France a week and a half ago ahead of Schleck by just 39 seconds. Two days later, July 28, he announced he would leave his Astana team at the end of the year. As if he was racing the Tour de France, Luxembourg's Schleck followed Contador and made a similar announcement on Friday, two days later.
Schleck and brother Fränk Schleck will split with Danish team manager, Bjarne Riis and his Saxo Bank team, announced Andy, at the end of this year. They will join a new team in their home country of Luxembourg, even if plans for the new team are still incomplete.
Next season "will be great, even if we don't yet know what our future holds," Andy told Le Quotidien. "It is official that we are no longer riding for Bjarne next year."
Andy leaves Riis after five years and Fränk after eight. Andy finished second overall at the Tour de France in the last two years and won Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year. Fränk twice finished fifth overall, won the Tour de Suisse this year and the Amstel Gold in 2006.
"It's been a fantastic five years for me and eight for Fränk, and I learned a lot in that time. I'll still stay friends with Bjarne but this is the end of the road for us as a team."
Riis has one of his own men – fellow Dane, Brian Nygaard – to blame for the Schlecks' departure.
Riis employed Nygaard as a press officer at team Saxo Bank/CSC through the end of 2009. Nygaard helped through the highs and lows, including when the team won the 2008 Tour de France with Carlos Sastre and when Riis admitted he used EPO as a cyclist to win the 1996 Tour de France
Nygaard signed on as Sky's press officer for this year, but left the British team in the cold prior to the Tour de France to become team manager of Luxembourg's new team. Dane Kim Andersen also left his role as sports director with Saxo Bank around the same time. He and Riis fell out when Riis discovered he was planning to join Nygaard's team as sports director.
Nygaard said in an e-mail Sunday it is "still too early" to share any information, but revealed some details to a Danish newspaper Weekend Avisen.
The team's sponsorship is coming from Luxembourger Flavio Becca. Becca is a real estate investor who is passionate for cycling and first met with Nygaard in Kortrijk, Belgium, around the time of the Tour of Flanders in early April.
"Flavio is an exceptional businessman who has spent months learning everything about professional cycling, as if it were any other commercial activity. I was impressed with his knowledge and recognised his passion," said Nygaard
"A couple of hours into a conversation that was only supposed to last for about half an hour, he offered me the position of director. I was flabbergasted."
Becca may bring in Fastfood chain Quick or supermarket chain Auchan as the title sponsor, according to L'Equipe. Though, both companies are based in France, not in Luxembourg.
The Schlecks, added L'Equipe, will be joined by Linus Gerdemann (Milram), Roman and Brice Feillu (Vacansoleil), Stuart O'Grady, Jens Voigt and Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank).
Riis takes the early lead
Riis won yesterday the first of what will be many battles with his former press officer. He was the first of the two Danes to announce his title sponsor and his Grand Tour contender, Alberto Contador.
"Now," said Contador, "I am a Saxo Bank-SunGard boy."
Contador agreed to the next two years, 2011 and 2012, and will compete under the team name, Saxo Bank-SunGard. Riis confirmed the continuation of Saxo Bank as the title sponsor yesterday after it was initially due to leave at the end of this year.
It all happened in one week's time, as Tour de France workers were still cleaning the confetti from the Champs-Élysées cobbles. Riis saw his two of his most important riders – Fränk and Andy Schleck – close their contracts, but turned and welcomed a three-time Tour de France, Alberto Contador.