Stephano Garzelli and Saxo Bank. Another Riis rabbit?
Bjarne Riis is no Mauro Gianetti but he does hustle. Gianetti earned our “hardest working man in cycling show business” as he attempted to keep his Ex-Geox squad alive — he flew to Venezuela, he hustled US pro continental teams, he looked under every rock in Europe for a sponsor.
However. second place must go to Riis and Saxo Bank in his continuing hunt for a little climber to help Alberto Contador in the Tour de France. That’s if the Spaniard’s legal help gets him off the clenbuterol charge with the Court for Glacial Arbitration in SPort (CGAS)
News today is that Riis is trying to pry the aging Stefano Garzelli out of Acqua & Sapone in time for him to ride the Giro for Saxo, then shepherd Alberto in Le Tour. According to Wednesday’s Gazzetta dello Sport, a deal is close but Garzelli’s brother and agent are calling the news nothing but rumor. They did admit the little bald climber almost signed with Saxo Bank back in August.
So Riis is still attempting to honor the desperate request of his superstar rider for a little help in the high mountains. The Spaniard looks over at Schleck’s RadioShack-Nissan Trek squad and gets that sinking feeling.
We also learned that Riis worked hard to convince Jakob Fuglsang to return to the fold when the merger of Leopard and Radio Shack was underway. The Dane decided to stick with Bruyneel’s juggernaut but perhaps now wishes he’d come back to Riis, given his recent comments about not fitting in.
It’s been a mystery why Riis, who is one of the sharpest men in pro cycling, hasn’t secured a plan B in case Alberto Contador is banned. Geox’s Juan Jose Cobo was begging for a ride but Riis didn’t pull the trigger, citing a lack of funds. At age 38, Garzelli is a bandaid, not a real solution.
Riis has always managed to resurrect careers, push riders to new levels of performance and pull rabbits out of a hat. After the Brothers Schleck hijacked his team and took it to Luxembourg, the leftovers at Saxo still put together a successful season.
However, depending on the CGAS verdict in late January, Riis may wish he’s gone the full Gianetti Max-Hustle route and locked down a viable Plan B.