Danish website Sporten.dk and television network TV 2 Sport reported that Saxo Bank coach Bjarne Riis prevented Andy Schleck and Stuart O’Grady from starting today’s stage 10 because of “violation of team’s internal policies.” The violations weren’t given but Riis said it wasn’t for doping and would clarify it later.
UPDATE: Andy Schleck released a statement claiming he went out for a drink after dinner and that was the violation of the team’s rules. He confirmed his statement to Cyclingnews:
“I acknowledge that I have broken a rule on the team by going out for a drink after dinner and for that reason Bjarne has decided to send myself and Stuart O’Grady home.”
“I’m responsible for my actions and even though I think it is too harsh a decision, I respect that Bjarne is the boss and he needs to do what he thinks is the best.”
“I was getting back into shape and I would really have liked to stay at the Vuelta and help Frank and the rest of Team Saxobank.”
NEW UPDATE: Riis commented on the decision to withdraw the two riders from the race after the stage. Read his comments here.
This will be a blow to the team especially Andy Schleck’s brother Frank who’s a strong contender for the overall Vuelta a Espana win. So far he is 1 minute 47 seconds behind overall leader Igor Anton. Frank is making a comeback in the Spanish grand tour after he crashed and broke his collarbone in July’s Tour de France and withdrew to recover from the injury. The Luxembourg duo usually do well pulling for each other during mountain stages.
Andy Schleck came in second place during the Tour de France 39 seconds behind winner Alberto Contador. It was his second time coming in second in the French race.
Stuart O’Grady is an Australian sprinter and has been riding under the coaching of Riis since 2006 (CSC and then Saxo Bank) and with the Schleck boys during their time with Team Saxo Bank. Frank has even named his Australian sheep dog Stewy after O’Grady.
It’s reported that when the Schlecks leave Saxo Bank at the end of this season their new Luxembourg team will also consist of some of their teammates from Saxo Bank including O’Grady.
Team Saxo Bank will bring on former Astana rider and three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador as their leader next year.
More on the Vuelta: Stage 9 results, Stage 8 results, Stage 7 results