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Team CS... uh Saxo Bank: How Will It Play?

Putting aside Boonen-gate, it's otherwise a hugely positive day for Cycling. Riis Cycling, owner of the world's top-ranked Cycling team since the invention of the freewheel, will be a going concern for the foreseeable future. My question is, how much will Saxo Bank resemble good old CSC? Let's assume for the moment that Saxo's investment is comparable to CSC's (Bruce? Jens? anyone?), or that Riis will tack on other sponsors in order to enforce something like a status quo with his budget. They're not the most extravagant team already, so I can't picture them scaling back. Anyway, now that there will be a 2009 team, Riis can start thinking about what to do with it.

Every team is due some change in the offseason, and CSC aren't necessarily a prime example. However, they do have some older riders (e.g., O'Grady, Julich, Cuesta, McCartney, Arvesen, Jens!) who won't be riding forever. They also have some potential clouds over Carlos Sastre's position in the team. His window for grand tour supremacy is starting to close. Meanwhile, he's demanding full captaincy of the Tour squad, despite a record that supports Riis maybe keeping his other options close at hand. If Sastre closes the deal next month, he stays. If not, or if Riis starts sending the Schlecks up the road without Sastre's permission, then maybe he's at a point in his career where he should find a lesser Tour team who'll support his last attempt or three at Yellow. [Saunier Duval, anyone?]

If Sastre goes, Riis may give either or both of the Schlecks to fill the Tour GC void. But he does have a hole to fill here and there. While CSC seemed to have cards to play at the Tour of Flanders, Kurt-Asle Arvesen can't really fill the Stijn Devolder role to Fabian Cancellara's Boonen. Meanwhile, there are some guys out there CSC would -- I'm guessing -- take a look at. Juan Antonio Flecha is a good bet to go shopping for a Flanders team, and would make a great 1-2 threat with Fabian. There are also young cobbles studs cropping up everywhere (Terpstra? Maaskant? I'm pulling this from you know where) and eventually (i.e. next offseason or two) someone will take Riis' invitation seriously.

The other big piece, IMHO, is a Giro d'Italia GC rider. Riis may give up on this one, but it wouldn't kill him to hire an Italian climber to give him a presence in the world's second-greatest stage race. Some ideas: Liquigas' hiring of Basso makes Pellizotti and Nibali lieutenants again... until someone else gives them a shot. Also, raiding the continental teams is a time-honored tradition, and while Emanuele Sella is too old to build around, Domenico Pozzovivo isn't. Again, I have no sources, NONE, but I'm confident that Riis will someday repay me for this free advice.