The Spoke Word: Contador signs with Saxo Bank

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If you can't beat him, sign him. Team Saxo Bank directer Bjarne Riis announced today that he has signed Tour de France champion Alberto Contador to a two-year deal.

Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck, of course, finished second to Contador in both the 2009 and 2010 Tours de France. But Schleck and his older brother, Andy, announced last week that they will be leaving Riis' team at the end of this season. They are expected to be the leaders of a new pro team based out of their native Luxembourg.

Contador has been trying to leave Astana for a couple of seasons and was expected to part ways with the team now that his contract is expiring this season. He has a personal sponsorship deal with Specialized, which has supplied bikes for Saxo Bank for two seasons. So from a business and sporting perspective, the move makes sense for both Contador and the team.

Just a few months ago, it seemed likely that Riis' team would dissolve this year. Saxo Bank, a Danish firm, had announced that it would be ending its support of the team after 2010, and Riis was struggling to find a backer in time to start signing riders for next season. Riis secured a bigger commitment from SunGard, an American IT firm that was a minor sponsor this season, however, and convinced Saxo Bank to stay on as a cosponsor. The new team will be called Saxo Bank-SunGard. 

—John Bradley

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