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Bjarne Riis has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday afternoon in Denmark, where he is expected to announce the team’s new sponsor and perhaps the arrival of three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.
Team officials would not confirm the subject matter of the press conference, but Contador is expected to join Riis under a new title sponsor that many believe to be Specialized bikes. Another title backer could come on board as well to take over from the departing Saxo Bank.
Contador was a surprise final-hour non-starter at last weekend’s Clásica San Sebastián, further raising speculation that a Riis deal is imminent. Contador announced his departure from Astana late last week.
The Spanish rider and Riis are believed to have reached a mutual agreement to join forces during a series of talks late in the 2010 Tour de France.
Also expected to join Contador are Spanish riders Benjamin Noval, Dani Navarro, David de la Fuente and Jesus Hernandez. Trusted mechanics, soigneurs and trainers are also likely to join him.
The Schleck brothers confirmed last week that they will be leaving Riis at the end of 2010 to race for an upstart Luxembourg-backed team next season. Both are expected to start the Vuelta a España for Riis later this month.
Several current Saxo Bank riders are also likely to join the Schleck brothers at the new Luxembourg team, but Richie Porte and Chris-Anker Sorensen confirmed to VeloNews this weekend that they will race with Riis in 2011.
Contador’s arrival would guarantee Riis a legitimate GC presence in the grand tours to combat the Schleck brothers.
The Contador-Andy Schleck rivalry is developing into one of the top match-ups in modern cycling history and Riis did not want to be left on the sidelines following the Schleck brothers’ decision to form a new, home-backed team.