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LOURDES, France (VN) — Tony Martin denied rumors Friday morning that he is set to join Bjarne Riis at Saxo Bank-Sungard in 2012. French daily L’Equipe reported Friday that the German is in discussions with Riis as the title sponsorship of his current squad, HTC-Highroad, is set to expire at the close of the year.
“Actually I never spoke to (Riis),” Martin said when asked about the report before the start in Pau. “It’s always nice to hear the news from the newspaper.”
HTC directors appointed Martin his team’s co-leader for the overall classification alongside last year’s Vuelta a España podium finisher Peter Velits. Martin ran into trouble on the Col du Tourmalet Thursday, however, and lost nine minutes on the day. Velits crashed high on the descent of the day’s first climb, the La Horquette d’Ancizan, and lost 4:05 to Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek), effectively ending the team’s GC hopes.
Martin’s team boss, Bob Stapleton, has talked openly about his difficulties in finding a new sponsor and earlier this year set a deadline of the end of the Tour to continue to 2012. Martin will continue the Tour and should enter the penultimate stage time trial a favorite for the stage win. He was victorious on the same 42.km Grenoble course at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.
“I’m still focused that my team can continue next year,” said Martin. “I really want to be focused on the race now and not what team I’ll be riding with next year.”