Who are the sponsor? Saxo Bank are Danish investment bank who’s website is full of words I don’t understand about liquidity and the like. Tinkoff Bank is Russia’s only bank that specialises in Credit cards.
2012 Ranking: 15th
Past Stars: Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck, Jens Voigt, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, Nick Nuyens, Fabian Cancellara, Laurent Jalabert.
Selected Team Palmares: 1st, 2007 Tour de France, 2009 Tour de France, 2008 Giro d’Italia, 2008 Vuelta a Espana, 2012 Vuelta a Espana, 2007+2008 Paris-Nice, 2008+2009Vuelta a Pais Vasco, 2007, 2008 and 2010 Vuelta a Castilla y Leon (all Alberto Contador), Stages, Tour de France (Alberto Contador x 3, 2007, 2009×2, Daniele Bennatix2, 2007) World Time Trial Champion x 3,(Michael Rodgers, 2003-05), Tour of Lombardy 2011, Oliver Zaugg.
Brief Team History: Around since when they were Memory Card Jack and Jones in 1998, Saxo-Tinkoff were best known as CSC, when they had stars such as Laurent Jalabert, then moved to Tyler Hamilton and Ivan Basso in the Arsmtrong years. They won the Tour as CSC-Saxo Bank in 2008 when they had an absurdly strong team in winner Carlos Sastre, Andy and Frank Schleck, then when Sastre left Schleck junior was second twice in the Tour, although he’s now down as winning in 2010 after Contador was DQed. In an odd twist of fate, when Schleck and buddies left and tore most of the talent from the team to go set up Leopard Trek, Contador went to Saxo Bank, as cyclings longest drawn out doping case began. He won the Giro, was stripped of that, turned up at the Tour and then was eventually banned. Riis must be missing old chums Voigt and Cancellara, who won him plenty in their Saxo years, although Cancellara’s replacement Nick Nuyens snatched the Tour of Flanders from him in 2011.
Last year: It’s no secret Saxo were basically waiting for Contador to return for the Vuelta after his ban was shortened. They did nothing until the Vuelta, and Contador won with one attack from 60kn out, showing in effect how lucky their season was in the end. They did get on the podium at the Tour, with Sorenson winning most aggressive rider (?) for sticking his hand in his own wheel and tearing the skin off, although another Saxo rider whose name now escapes me was probably going to win it anyway.
Transfer dealings: Sax0-Tinkoff have had the best recruitment period of all the teams in 2013, with a lathering of stars and powerful riders in need of the ‘Riis factor’ to push them a little further on board not only to secure ranking points (Contador should still technically not score any points this year by my reckoning due to his ban) but also to bolster the line up in the Tours and classics. As a result, Matti Breschel is back from Rabobank after an injury hit spell, and men like Romain Kreuizger, Nicholas Roche and Michael Rogers are now avaliable to help Contador in the mountains. Then, they have men like Bennati and Zaugg employed to help mop up victories very so often.
Who are the star riders? Saxo-Tinkoff are the best example of a one man team, and the one man is still very much Alberto Contador. This year though, he has the new signings to take the pressure off: Michael Rogers, Nicholas Roche and Romain Kreuziger are good Grand Tour riders in their own right (well, maybe not Roche) and should deliver good results. The classics department is also rebolstered with Matti Breschel, Daniele Bennati and Oliver Zaugg. Saxo have given up on their Argentinian sprinting experiment they started back in 2008 though, and aside from Bennati, don’t seem bothered about sprinting.
Fashion police: The best thing the team have done is change their name from the mouthful that was SaxoBank TinkoffBank to the more manageable, if still not exactly easy to say, SaxoTinkoff. The kit reflects this a bit more, though is still essentially the same as last year, if not tidied up a bit so it doesn’t look like they just slapped Tinkoff bank and a dash of yellow on a la 2012. It looks quite nice really, it a little garish at times.
What are their targets? Supporting Contador to victory in the Tour is perhaps the only real goal, as well as simply being better than last year, which can’t be too hard. Contador will probably also want another shot at the Vuelta.
What are they likely to achieve? Contador is already favourite for the Tour, and it will be a suprise if he doesnt get on the podium. Saxo will still look to suprise elsewhere though, hoping their riders will gain that extra couple of percent to grab some much needed results to take the pressure off el Pistolero.
Components: One of three teams to use Specialized, Saxo-Tinkoff also use SRAM Red, as well as Zipp components.
The Big Question(s): Will Contador be back to be best rather than the mixed form he showed at the 2012 Vuelta?