Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has been given a boost after his new team, Saxo Bank-Sungard, signed three of his closest stage race helpers on Thursday.
Astana rider Contador, the yellow jersey champion in 2007, 2009 and 2010, will race for the outfit run by former Tour winner Bjarne Riis as of 2011 after signing with the Dane last week.
On Thursday Riis announced that all-rounder Benjamin Noval, as well as climbing specialists Jesus Hernandez and Daniel Navarro, have also signed two-year deals.
Riis said in a statement: “Having met the three strong and loyal riders, it was a natural and almost obvious move to sign them. They have shown great stamina and loyalty during this year’s Tour de France along with a great will to cooperate and sense of team spirit.”
Navarro, who won a stage of the tough Criterium du Dauphine in June as Contador finished runner-up, said: “Here, I will be able to help the team and Alberto to another Tour de France victory. I’m looking forward to working with the staff and to meet my new teammates and experience Bjarne’s way of working. I am convinced that we will have a very strong team.”
Noval said: “Working with Riis makes me calm because their team has always had a reputation for being well-structured with clear ideas. I hope it will be a fruitful experience for all of us and personally, my goal will be to help the team in every race I do.”
Along with Navarro, Hernandez is considered a key helper for Contador whom he helps to pace in key mountain stages.
“This move is perfect for me. I get to keep riding with Alberto and I get to start working with a serious team with a lot of discipline,” said Hernandez. “I’m very excited to start working with Bjarne as he has proven to be a great sports director. I’m convinced that we will achieve great triumphs together.”
Contador signed with Riis just over a week after he beat Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, who currently rides with Saxo Bank, by 39secs to win his third Tour.
Schleck and his brother Frank are set to leave the team to join a home-based outfit.
During his time at Astana, Contador won a Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta title as well as two of his three Tour de France titles.
© AFP 2010