Bjarne Riis said last week he had this thing called a budget constraint and therefore had no plans to bring on Juan Jose Cabo or Denis Menchov from the defunct Geox-TMC to help Alberto Contador in the mountains.
That was the public statement but in private Riis must have given the budget a closer look. The Dane also knows there is this thing called creative finance. He did some digging and found three places to save significant funds — Andre Steensen, Brian Vandborg and Volodymir Gustov were not offered new contracts.
Cycling journalists — who are also familiar with budget constraints — looked at that move and came to the immediate conclusion that Riis was putting the cash together to bring in that help Contador will need against the RadioShack-Nissan juggernaut of the Brothers Schleck and Johan Bruyneel.
Contador has been surprisingly vocal about his serious need for a climber and his chances against a powerhouse squad that features the best riders from Radio Shack and Leopard. Riis has been listening and he’s also thinking longer term — if he disappoints Contador this season, Alberto will have good reason to sign with a new team for 2013. Make him happy and perhaps he stays.
By cutting three riders, Riis is perhaps taking one last, bell-already-rang, shot at signing a top climber. The question is, who and why? Twisted Spoke believes that Cobo is a better fit and holds more potential than Menchov. We’re guessing the Russian is used to running his own program and isn’t ready to ride for anybody else in a Grand Tour.
Cobo, on the other hand, would benefit immensely from Riis’ training plans and race planning. It’s a step up professionally for Cobo, a chance to learn from one of the best and see how far he can go. Hanging around with Geox-TMC wasn’t really going to take his career much farther. Besides, Alberto would much prefer another Spaniard at El Saxo Bank.
Riis certainly has budget constraints. But he managed to remove three of them today.