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Riis Returns

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Bjarne Riis is back, in a press conference today he and colleagues Lars Seier, the founder of Saxo Bank and Jan Beck Andersen, chairman and owner of Brøndby IF, a soccer club have bought 30% of the NTT Pro Cycling, formerly the Dimension Data team.

There will be some online outrage at Riis’s return but some of this is misplaced. Instead surely the problem is the sport can’t seem to attract or promote new faces.

You can see why the news isn’t too cheerful. Bjarne Riis is cycling’s dictionary definition of a workhorse turned into grand tour thoroughbred thanks to blood doping. There’s also the unsatisfactory ending of Operation Puerto where some of Riis’s riders were linked to Eufemiano Fuentes but escaped for lack of evidence, for example wire transfers from Frank Schleck were put down to “training plans” which raised more than a few eyebrows but never led to a conviction.

However it’s hard to get outraged by his return. In part because he’s barely been away. After his lucrative split from Oleg Tinkov and the Tinkoff team, Riis has been in and around the sport including Team Virtu, a women’s cycling team. He took over this team for 2017 and brought in Jan Beck Andersen and Lars Seier. But despite their wealth and contacts, Team Virtu couldn’t find a sponsor and Riis and Co. pulled the shutters down on the team. About the same time stories started to bubble up that he could take over the Katusha team or buy the Dimension Data/NTT cycling team. So he’s been out of the World Tour but never very far away.

Yes it’s not a great look when a notorious cheat returns to the top table but he’s hardly alone there. Riis didn’t get banned, partly because of the statute of limitations. Several other team managers have been banned – Alexandr Vinokourov, Patxi Vila, Matt White to list three – while plenty of other team managers were probably up to similar things but didn’t get rumbled for it. There are several ex-Festina riders behind the wheel of team cars today with varying degrees of apology. So pro cycling can’t put up a unique barrier to Bjarne Riis and besides there are worldwide rules in sport and the short version is that once you’ve served a ban you can return (as long as you haven’t got a lifetime ban).

No, the big problem with Riis’s return is just that it feels stale. There’s nobody fresh and exciting trying to break into the world tour. There’s no keen outsider trying to buy in. There’s nobody in Pro Conti ranks who everyone wants to see given control of a World Tour team.

As for the NTT team, Riis and his entourage are buying in but not taking over the team, they’ll have 30% (and yes there have been several 60% jokes today, a reminder that Riis’s past follows him around like ball and chain on his ankle). It’s not the first time, in 2015 it seems he tried to link up with MTN-Qhubeka, the same team under a previous name, but was rebuffed as Danish newspaper BT reported (my translation):

For us, it has not been possible to start a collaboration with Bjarne Riis. The values of our new sponsors do not align with the history of Riis having previously doped.

What has changed within NTT today? But buying into the team is not the same as investing, presumably NTT team owner Doug Ryder has sold a share of his equity and banks the cash. What Riis and company could do is bring in new sponsors and if Riis is the headline name, it’s Seier and Andersen who bring the money and business contacts. It might have been a harder sell for the Virtu women’s team but NTT is a World Tour team and so the guaranteed presence in the Tour de France can open doors. The Riis to NTT gossip has been chattering away for months now, accompanied by talk that Danish window giant Velux could come aboard in time for 2021, when the Tour de France has its grand depart in Copenhagen. It’d fit, after all you can build a house already with many other team sponsors (Deceuninck, Quickstep, Soudal, Renson, Bora, Hansgrohe etc). It’s this that will keep the team on the road and improve performance, more money will let them recruit better.

Bjarne Riis is back but he was never away for long. Yes he’s got baggage but plenty of others do too, although this was enough to see him rebuffed by the team in 2015. Instead look around and there’s nobody else knocking on the door and cycling’s second tier of Pro Teams isn’t awash with excitement, although the Roodhooft brothers at Alpecin-Fenix are worth keeping an eye on.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • J Evans Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 7:56 pm

    Yup, he’s just as tainted as countless others involved in the sport.
    Shame that a team that started with such a large focus on helping its charity has come to this.
    If you want ethics, this isn’t the sport for you (but then I can’t think of a sport that would be).

  • JE Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 8:42 pm

    I didn’t know you spoke Danish. Sejt.

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 8:48 pm

      Nor did I beyond “skål” but reading it slowly is ok if you know English, Dutch and German etc.

    • Russell Williams Saturday, 11 January 2020, 2:41 pm

      I am passionate about cycling. I have been a fan of Dimension Data because it was an outsider and because of the charity who got people on bikes, opening up their world. That came to a screaming halt
      when they hired Riis and apparently fired Ryder. I know our sport has been dirty. Many of our heroes
      used drugs to achieve victories in brutal races. Why can’t we change? Why can’t cycling be for the love of the sport?
      I will never be more than an ex-Cat 3 and sport Mountain Biker. I have sponsored a few small races and served as an official and medic at a number of races. Age and illness have made it clear those days are past yet I will always cherish the feelings of any miles I can ride my bike and watching those who do it so much better than I.

      • Eskerrik Asko Sunday, 12 January 2020, 9:43 am

        I had to reread the first sentences before I understood that what came to a screaming halt was your being a fan of the team. My fingers were already itching to type a reply and to tell you that the partnership with Qhubeka will continue and that the charit may in fact benefit from the new owners’ entry.

        Anyway, as the Inner Ring pointed out, Doug Ryder is the team owner and unless I’m mistaken he still owns the majority, so he wasn’t and couldn’t have been fired by anyone. Of course, it may well have been that what with NTT not continuing as a title sponsor beyond 2020 he was in a situation where he had no choice but to accept the hand (and the other hand holding the sack of money) Riis extended to him.

        Meanwhile, Michael Rasmussen on his Facebook page described this deal as largely a face saving operation by Riis who has failed to reach with his Virtue cycling any of the goals that were announced. For Riis, it is of course a great success because now he will be around in a meaningful way and an important position when the Tour de France starts in Copenhagen – but without the deal he would’ve been the one outside looking in…

  • Karl Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 8:45 pm

    If this has been in the works for months, and if the deal potentially includes new sponsors, the biggest disappointment should be that Riis couldn’t (or just didn’t) work some deal to include the Virtu Women’s team in the mix.

  • Dave Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 8:47 pm

    Always amused by the double standard shown by many fans with Sky being evil cheats due historic doping associations (Leinders etc) and apparent TUE abuse, but Mitchelton Scott (Orica as was) are lovable plucky underdogs when their manager was banned for his part in the US Postal case and one of their lead riders banned for a TUE infraction.

    Amazing what a few funny “behind the scenes” videos (and not winning so much) can do to people’s perceptions.

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 8:52 pm

      True but MTS don’t pretend to reinvent the wheel either, hold zero tolerance purges of staff etc. Anyway, please keep things to Riis and NTT here as things can quickly end up in the 36th “trial of Team Sky” via blog comments and this gets us nowhere beyond using up precious bandwidth.

      • morten reippuert Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:09 pm

        still MTS employed Matt White, Impey and even defendend convicted doper Simon Yates almost a decade later after Riis who at leats did implement the first template for the current blood passport as the first team on WT and PC level after operation puerto.

        as far as Riis financial backing. Its an unethic taxevasion bank which can only exist in the UK and Swizerland – but at least it not Murdoch style fachist backed or Inios Green washing.

      • Anonymous Monday, 13 January 2020, 12:59 am

        Reinventing the wheel. That’s got to be worth the 7th circle of hell right there.

  • Larz Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 9:22 pm

    Actually, the Virtu Cycling Group also had a mens team (called Team Waoo). It is safe to say, that the team did not perform exceptionally well being only 3rd best danish team.


    How involved Riis really was with the team is quite unclear, though.

    • Morten Reippuert Thursday, 9 January 2020, 1:46 pm

      Team Waoo did feed a few current worldtour riders. Most known is Asgreen who everyone forgot went from continetal (not pro continental) to Quickestep on April 1st after the classics in 2018 and was successfull right away with impressive rides in the 2018 vuelta and Innsbruck worlds. If Remco had not appered in 2019 everone would have talked about Asgreens world tour debut where he was a stable in the top races all season.

  • chava Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 9:31 pm

    Most of the animosity towards him seems to me to be a result of his introverted, even taciturn personality when interviewed by journalists. Have a chat with former or current riders who has worked with him and mostly they praise him.
    The fact that he keeps going no matter how the popular media portrays him also speaks of his tenacity which should be a plus in this game.

  • CA Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 10:03 pm

    I’m glad he’s back. He always was a strong leader for CSC/Saxo Bank and it is good that he took his profits from Tinkoff and is back to create a new strong team.

    Mtn Qbca always struggled and is desperate for a clear strong leadership team. I hope they come back to light up the World Tour over the next 5-10 years and if they can promote the sport in Africa that would be a huge bonus.

    • MJJ Thursday, 9 January 2020, 1:54 am

      I was thinking the same thing. Riis seemed to be a strong team manager / DS, but maybe that is naïveté about how his main riders achieved what they did under him. I feared NTT would fall apart with another season or two of basically zero results and expect that will change under Riis.

      • CA Thursday, 9 January 2020, 2:02 am

        Absolutely it will change. He’s a very driven manager, and hopefully will work well with Rolf Aldaq.

        Honestly, Riis never did anything that wasn’t done at other top teams wherever he went. Although obviously there were other teams that were cleaner

        • DaveRides Thursday, 9 January 2020, 12:25 pm

          Aldag won’t be there, as he was fired by Dimension Data after the 2019 Tour de France.

          • Morten Reippuert Thursday, 9 January 2020, 1:49 pm

            Yes Lars Michaelsen officially took over from Aldag jan 1st. He started the rebuilding the team in october reports that basic infrastructure required to run a WT team where not in place and never had been.

      • CA Thursday, 9 January 2020, 2:03 am

        Sorry I pressed enter too quickly.

        As it currently stands Dimension Data was awful the last few years, and yes Cav didn’t work out. But name another World Tour team that only has 1 good rider? That’s nuts.

        • Mikael Aagaard Thursday, 9 January 2020, 6:49 am

          There wont be any coorporation with Aldag. He left the team by the end of 2019. It will be his former ds from the Saxo/Tinkoff days, Lars Michaelsen, who will fill that role.
          Apart from that according to danish newspapers a string of other former employees are set to follow. Some danish, some not.

          • CA Thursday, 9 January 2020, 5:12 pm

            Ah, interesting, thanks for the update! Well, that’s good, the Saxo/Tinkoff Danish management was solid and produced some really good results.

            I really hope they do keep some roster spots and development for the mtn-qbka squad, but otherwise bringing in more Danish riders worked well for them in the past.

  • Dave Wednesday, 8 January 2020, 10:18 pm

    As above, I am also happy that he is back. I know that he was nowhere near perfect in a time when most riders were nowhere near perfect, but he is a leader that supports professional cycling and should help make NTT a great team – just my opinion.

  • Joe K. Thursday, 9 January 2020, 5:50 am

    Hearing this news made me think about LA (he-who-shall-not-be-named): Why does Bjarne get to own teams and continue participating in the sport to make more money while the Texan is so ostracized by the pro cycling community that he can’t even show his face at a local race in Belgium, let along come to own a pro team. I’m no defender of LA, but, hell, even ole’ Floyd got to own his own team. Is populism trumping the rule of law in pro cycling such that life-time bans are dolled out to the unpopular kids while the “in-crowd” kids get the favorable treatment? While it’s true–as Mr. Inrng points out–that Bjarne has been around pro cycling for some time now, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, I’ve always wondered what justification there was for looking the other way with regards to him. Is Riis the Trump of pro cycling? You can go grab them by the “p__y” but they won’t do anything about it!

    • Fatclimber Thursday, 9 January 2020, 5:57 pm

      Please, can we stop with the, “Lance never did anything that the others didn’t do” story. Lance lost his tour results because he refused to attend an anti-doping tribunal – having been told that that is exactly what would happen if he didn’t show up. The ban he received reflects not so much his doping but the lengths he went to in intimidating and harassing those who refused to buy into the legend. Yes he doped – as did many others – but that’s not actually what dictated the sanction he received.

      • RooBay Thursday, 9 January 2020, 11:32 pm

        Agree with this but query whether a lifetime ban was overly excessive for these additional transgressions. As one of the other posts on this thread has said, is Armstrong’s lifetime ban reasonable when his actions where to cover-up his own doping. Contrast this with others like Riis who admit to doping in their career to win the biggest races and then oversee doping in the teams they led as director (the latter not having been proven definitively in the case of Riis). Vino is another one. His ongoing presence is the sport is, in my view, the largest stain. Petro dollars win the day there.

        • Fatclimber Friday, 10 January 2020, 12:14 pm

          I think that it was precisely the nature of those actions (some of which bordered on sociopathic – for instance the threatening and subsequent outing of Greg Lemond, the career limitation and sponsorship pressure brought to bear on ex-team members and the use of financial intimidation against David Walsh, the Times and Emma O’Reilly) that mean you really don’t want him involved in this sport on any level. I feel it is fair to say that his behaviour can be described as extreme – which I’d suggest has a lot to do with the nature of the punishment. Whether you agree with a lifetime ban or not is up for debate, but suggesting that Lance was just another doper certainly isn’t.

      • Davesta Friday, 10 January 2020, 2:48 pm

        Exactly! He did a LOT different to other dopers…
        And indeed, this is reflected in the bans of not just LA, but also Ferrari, Bruyneel etc who are also banned for life…they were not only charged with personal doping offences, like so many riders, but also with the administration & trafficking of substances, the coercion and intimidation used to involve other riders in the doping conspiracy for LA’s own gain, and as Fatclimber mentions – the bullying of those who tried to speak out against him, such as LeMond, O’Reilly, Kimmage etc.

        Riis may well have run a dirty cycling team and administrated his own doping conspiracy. But he hasn’t been charged, nor found guilty of that. He’s only been found guilty (or admitted) his own personal doping offences. So he’s free, rightly or wrongly, to return to the sport.

  • Lukyluk Thursday, 9 January 2020, 7:53 am

    There’s a difference, I feel, with riders with a doping past, and managers who have pushed doping onto their riders. A cyclist that doped in the past, admitted it and commits to a different behavior can be a decent manager in my eyes. But when you’re a manager, what’s your excuse for endangering the health of others?

    There’s also a difference between those who faced the consequences of their failings and those who didn’t. Statute of limitations in certain countries may keep prosecutors off your back, but there’s no way it wipes the slate clean for all but your die-hard fans.

    Also quite sad is how he stopped his involvement in Virtu almost overnight, in spite of all his grandiose declarations on how women’s cycling was the future and he wanted to be an actor to support this side of the sport. It seems he only wanted to be such an actor when he couldn’t get his hands on MTN, and now that he’s got his prized egg, he ditches female cycling altogether. Maybe I have this wrong, but it gives the impression, at least, that he had the money (and contacts) to make Virtu thrive, just decided to invest it elsewhere. This may be a savvy business move, but when compared to his previous declarations, makes it sound very hypocritical.

    As written above, he’s an old player in the sport by now, but his long career doesn’t show much consistency. In a sport (and a country, in the case of NTT) where a contract doesn’t actually mean all that much in the wake of sudden financial dropout, I’d be pretty nervous as a rider if the team doesn’t perform well, and maybe try to secure a backup plan.

    As you may have guessed, I don’t see his “return” as a positive for the sport. I hope I’m wrong.

    • DJW Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:27 am

      One would need to be strangely naive to thing that within numerous team structures tolerance of exploiting loopholes and the improbability of getting caught were not acceptable in the interests of results. Maybe Riis is no worse than others, maybe better than some, but his teams have a long association with riders suspected of pushing the limits. There are also some unexplained bike changes in his teams which invite suspicion.

      As you say, the presence of others with a doping past in team structures does not make the return of Riis welcome.

  • Anonymous Thursday, 9 January 2020, 8:22 am

    “There’s no keen outsider trying to buy in. ” Who would want to buy into a sport that welcomes Mr. 60% back into the top club?
    Probably more sad and illustrative of the sport’s problems is the guy who said: “The values of our new sponsors do not align with the history of Riis having previously doped.” seems to be the same guy happy to take 60%’s money now. The “Eagle from Herning” is a dope cheat and a-hole both as rider or team manager/owner. What’s changed? Of course there’s one rather big thing but we can’t start up the trial of a certain UK WT team yet again…
    These days it seems a game of musical deck chairs on the Titanic – nobody else is dumb enough to put up the cash to try to take a seat. 🙁

    • Larry T Thursday, 9 January 2020, 8:23 am

      Sorry, I typed my post before putting the details in above, oooops!

    • Lukyluk Thursday, 9 January 2020, 8:36 am

      The team manager may not have changed, but the team certainly has. In the early 2010s, MTN was a starry-eyed team claiming to promote the development of African pro cycling and riding for the Qhubeka charity. Today in 2020, all of its leaders are established European riders, they’ve more or less given up on internal youth development (relying instead on EU hopes like Battistella or Mäder), and Qhubeka doesn’t seem like a priority anymore.

      From a PR perspective, things definitely have changed, and I can see how sponsor preoccupations would be different now.

      • Trevor Hayes Thursday, 9 January 2020, 12:30 pm

        NTT still seem to be developing youth through their NTT U23 continental team. 5 of the 11 man 2020 roster are African, with 4 from Italy (makes sense as their euro base is in Lucca). Plus the Zwift academy winner – 18yr old Christensen from NZ). So I don’t think you can say they are not investing in youth development.
        I’m not a fan of Riis, but I’m thinking he will positively impact results for the team, who have performed among the worst in the WT since inception. Plus, they’re still on the best bikes in the world!

        • Lukyluk Thursday, 9 January 2020, 2:28 pm

          You’re right of course, and Battistella and Konychev are proof they still have a quality dev squad.

          I should have specified that I meant they moved away from *African* youth development. Riders like Areruya and Ghebreigzhabier (I’m sure I typo’d that, sorry) come from the MTN-Qhubeka dev team, not sure they’ll have successors or if NTT will just become yet another international pro team backed by a big corporate sponsor.

    • Eskerrik Asko Thursday, 9 January 2020, 3:39 pm

      The guy who said that in August 2015 was Brian Smith, then general manager of MTN-Qhubeka. Smith left the team in April 2016.
      Anyway, it was the then new sponsor, Dimension Data. that didn’t want Riis aboard. (We don’t know whether Brian Smith would have accepted Riis’ offer.) But a similar change of management has taken place since 2015 also at Dimension Data.
      In other words, the guys who now said yes are entirely different to those who said no in 2015. We may not like it but we must find some other, more fitting illustration of the sport’s problems and sad state of affair, mustn’t we?

      • Larry T Thursday, 9 January 2020, 5:59 pm

        Wasn’t Doug Ryder involved from the start? Even if Brian Smith was the guy saying no to “Mr. 60%”s offer the real decision would have been Ryders, no? And if the same Mr. Ryder seems OK with turning over the running of his team to the “Eagle of Herning” now, for me that illustrates the problems of the sport pretty well, regardless of the change in management at Dimension Data or parent company NTT.

        • Eskerrik Asko Thursday, 9 January 2020, 7:39 pm

          If we accept what Brian Smith said in 2015 was the truth etc, then the owner of the team had to choose between losing the new title sponsor, i.e. more money and relative certainty for a number of years, or taking up Riis’ offer, i.e. less money and a frantic search for a title sponsor. How much of a real and independent decision could that have been?
          You made such an apparently big deal about Smith changing his mind and expressed the opinion that was an illustration of the sport’s problems. When it was kindly pointed out to you that those who nixed the deal in 2015 aren’t around anymore, you now argue without a shred of evidence that Doug Ryder was strictly anti-doping in 2015 but isn’t anymore, at least not to the extent of refusing to sell to a tainted Dane.
          The sport quite possibly has its share of problems, but this deal in my humble opinion illustrates simply that the money must come from somewhere and whoever brings it in one way or another wins. No-one says no to a tainted Dane bearing a sack of money unless they already have a bigger sack of money or know that someone else will bring in as much or preferably more money.

          • Larry T Thursday, 9 January 2020, 8:50 pm

            You wrote: “No-one says no to a tainted Dane bearing a sack of money unless they already have a bigger sack of money or know that someone else will bring in as much or preferably more money.” I call BS unless you change “No-one” (sic) to “Few”. In that case I’d agree with you. And the fact that few would, illustrates very well what is wrong with pro cycling. Thanks for pointing it out 🙂

          • Eskerrik Asko Sunday, 12 January 2020, 10:01 am

            I’m not you, so I’m not half as ready and eager to call anything BS if it’s only my opinion and not proven or established facts we’re talking about.
            But, anyway, I would be interested to learn who are the WT team owner who’d say no Riis and his partners even if meant an uncertain future without a title sponsor in sight and or a certain future with a reduced budget, little hope of improved race results and a quite possible relegation!
            PS What was the “(sic)” for? Was it simply because you’re more comfortable with the unhyphenated form or believe that the hyphenated form is outdated or even wrong? Or should I in your opinion have written “nobody”? Or was there a point you wished to make and that I missed completely?
            PPS What is wrong with pro cycling hardly needed my pointing it out. And what’s wrong with pro cycling is not that there are general managers or team owners who five years ago in a similar situation said or would have said no to Riis, but now said yes.

    • CA Thursday, 9 January 2020, 5:09 pm

      Wow – the sport embraces Pantani and Indurain (I won’t even mention Eddy), yet despises Riis? C’mon, Riis deserves a shot just as much as those guys, and Riis is determined to help develop strong teams which helps the sport.

      This sport kills chances of outsider money because we throw our old heroes under the bus at every chance… the most lucrative international sports almost ignores doping and past dopers. It’s not the only reason why they are lucrative, but it keeps the sponsorship dollars flowing whereas cycling (which depends on sponsorship) actively tells sponsors to stay away because we will tarnish your name on purpose!

      Cycling fans live in this glass house throwing rocks at our roof from the inside during a hailstorm!

      • Larry T Thursday, 9 January 2020, 6:08 pm

        Wait a minute. How can the sport that “embraces Pantani and Indurain (I won’t even mention Eddy)” also ” throw our old heroes under the bus at every chance”?
        You follow this with “…the most lucrative international sports almost ignores doping and past dopers. ” Are you suggesting pro cycling go in this direction so it could be more lucrative?

        • J Evans Thursday, 9 January 2020, 7:28 pm

          I was about to make exactly those two points, Larry.
          Furthermore, the people CA mentions were riders, not team bosses (there are plenty of similarly shady team bosses CA could have mentioned who are still in the sport and that’s why I’m not particularly against Riis’ return – he’s just one more bad apple). It’s one thing to dope yourself, it’s another to facilitate others doing so (hence LA’s lifetime ban).

        • CA Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:03 pm

          Larry and J Evans – If we’re banning people who are not nice… are you kidding me? What is this, kindergarten?

          Yeah, we throw so many dopers under the bus, which in turn makes our sport look like the dirtiest sport out there. Then we have the hypocrisy of loving pantani and big mig and Eddy yet they weren’t clean – potentially just as dirty as Lance was. Oh, and you guys blast Lance because he was a huge jerk and for facilitating doping but how many current team managers are from the same era? Do you think Quickstep had doping as Mapei?

          Give me a break guys.

          I’m sorry, Inrng, this was my last comment for the day.

          • J Evnas Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:59 pm

            ‘If we’re banning people who are not nice… ‘ – I haven’t said that anywhere.
            I also didn’t ‘blast Lance because he was a huge jerk’.
            I did say ‘there are plenty of similarly shady team bosses… and that’s why I’m not particularly against Riis’ return’ and ‘he’s just as tainted as countless others involved in the sport’.
            So, I can’t see any ‘hypocrisy’ in what I’ve said, nor any ‘kindergarten’-esque behaviour.

          • Larry T Saturday, 11 January 2020, 8:11 pm

            I guess you can’t come up with a response to:
            “…the most lucrative international sports almost ignores doping and past dopers. ” Are you suggesting pro cycling go in this direction so it could be more lucrative?
            Finally, while I personally might want to see a-holes (and cheats) like “Mr. 60%” banned from the sport I merely pointed out how bad his comeback makes the sport look (something Mr. Inrng himself noted in his piece) rather than called for “banning people who are not nice.” I’m happy to take criticism (and note that I am one of the very few who posts here under his real name rather than hiding behind a pseudonym) but get rather wound up when attacked for things I didn’t even write, so in the spirit of this blog please keep your facts straight, OK?

      • Allegedly Anthony Saturday, 11 January 2020, 7:06 pm

        Sorry, fella – this attitude of refusing to spit in the soup is what allowed doping to grow to such hideous proportions. Eventually the truth seeps out and undermines the sponsorship value of the sport.
        Yes, other sports are in the same place cycling was during the 80’s and 90’s, but the reality of what this leads to is becoming clear in the media. Tennis, athletics and rugby are going to have a lot of fallout to deal with, although the blind tribalism of football seems to be protecting FIFA from reality. Ho hum…

    • RQS Thursday, 9 January 2020, 8:30 pm

      What makes you say Riis is an a-hole? I know he has a doping past, but I’m guessing you have something beyond that….otherwise I’d struggle to see how you could like cycling much.

      From my own perspective, I think Riis is a very pragmatic product of his sport. As a person he appears to be principled in how he deals with his riders. He’s not the most charismatic person, but he must have something because he consistently manages to get backers for his cycling teams.

      I dislike the way that elite sport is now a fraud with the extra level which differentiates top riders from amateurs being dope, and not even then. But you have to reconcile yourself to it as a fact which pervades every sport and is hidden, but is every where.

      Riis didn’t bully, cajole and threaten people doing what he does, nor has he sort to dominate the sport – so he’s not the Texan and he’s not Sky, the fact that he is still so interested in a sport where he has notoriety for the wrong reasons actually speaks of his deep seated love of the sport and for me that is a strong redeeming point.

      • Larry T Thursday, 9 January 2020, 8:56 pm

        My laundry list of why “Mr. 60%” is an a-hole IMHO is probably longer than most would care to wade through here but I’ll touch on a few highlights: First would be his nasty demeanor after Fabio Casartelli was killed at LeTour (look up his quote yourself, I’m sure it’s out there.) Second would be his behavior during the Giro’s “Crostis Affair” (and I’ll let you look that up as well)
        If that’s not enough I’ve got more, but you’ll get the picture with these two examples I think.

        • The Inner Ring Thursday, 9 January 2020, 8:57 pm

          It’s ok to hold different opinions.

          If the comments continue as an argument that won’t get settled it’s easier to switch them off here.

          • RQS Thursday, 9 January 2020, 10:21 pm

            Oh, I don’t think we are arguing. Larry is just being his robust self. It’s obvious he has strong feelings about Bjarne. I must admit I’m oblivious to the incidents he mentions. So maybe he has a good point. I’ll try to check them out in the spirit of broadening my mind.

            He was also instrumental in ensuring that the 1998 tour didn’t die. I think the way he ceded control of ONCE to Ullrich shows that he is not an ego. He tried to guide the young protege to greater heights and has been doing it with other cyclists ever since….not that he advocated clean means.

          • Larry T Friday, 10 January 2020, 8:25 am

            No problem. Rather than piss off Mr. Inrng and readers uninterested in why I think “Mr. 60%” is an a-hole, I’ll put my laundry list on the CycleItalia blog in the coming days. http://cycleitalia.blogspot.com/

          • RQS Saturday, 11 January 2020, 8:29 pm

            Well I can see your particular irks date back a long way. I remember that Riis’ TDF win raised eyebrows at the time.
            Looking back on it there’s a part of me that wonders if his win, and his show boating on the Hautacam weren’t him exposing 90s cycling for the drug fuelled sham they were, sort of saying ‘if you prep as well as me (using drugs) you too can turn a cart horse into a thorough bred’. I seem to remember that my friends and I started talking a lot more about the influence of EPO around that time. Though I can’t remember if that was before or after Ferrari talked about it not being any more dangerous than drinking orange juice.
            I’m not saying he’s a force for good, but I think due to his notoriety he’s actually a lot more opaque than a lot of other operations out there. And, I’ll go back to my previous point which is that for all the merde heaped his way he just keeps on coming back to a sport with funding and sponsorship when it might actually be easier to set up a bike shop in Luxembourg or supermarket in Denmark, and I think that and the fact he’s clearly motivated by his love of cycling have to acknowledged as positives. I appreciate that people aren’t holding open their arms to him (I’m not either), but I have to give him some respect.

          • Larry T Sunday, 12 January 2020, 9:02 am

            RQS- We certainly have different opinions and couldn’t one say similar things about another dope-cheat, liar, bully, etc. currently banned for life from the sport? One might say “Mr. 60%” has somehow repented, but his antics since he hung up the wheels don’t indicate that to me anymore than “BigTex” did posing in front of his yellow jersey collection on the wall of his mansion.
            I was (as I think Mr. Inrng was as well) trying to elaborate on the sad situation pro cycling is in when it seems it’s forced to accept the return with open arms of unrepentant dope-cheats and proven liars (and IMHO a-holes). You don’t seem to think this is as awful as I do (BTW – my wife doesn’t either) so we can leave it there I think 🙂

          • RQS Tuesday, 14 January 2020, 9:27 am

            I guess if I thought he was a destructive element to cycling I would be upset by his reappearance. For example: if he bullied his cyclists, destroyed careers, dominated the sport and eviscerated the cycling landscape with a slash and burn approach.

            But on the point of his legacy tainting the sport is a complex one. My opinion is that money generally destroys sport as a competition. It guarantees winners wherever it’s influence is felt. This corrupting influence isn’t just about recruiting the best talent, but also the best doctors, and to this extent Pandora’s box has been open long before Riis came on the scene. Riis is peculiar because he was not convicted of a doping offence, but more by association, one he has not wasted money on denying. But public opinion usually saves its condemnation for those found guilty, though anecdotally the likelihood is that the number of those guilty of such offences is much bigger than the number of those caught (especially when you consider that many of the biggest doping cases were exposed not through testing, but through police investigation).
            So what can you do? Zero tolerance would likely and inevitably wind up with eventual claims of hypocrisy, though perhaps it might also cause more whistle blowing. The problem for all sport is that the infection is so deep rooted and medical science has no cure (testing is expensive and not legally conclusive). While the infection may be controlled it cannot be eradicated.
            In some ways Riis’ willingness to acknowledge the dark side is a positive, as it sheds light on the practises. The more open sport is about doping the better authorities can look to deal with it and make sport safe and fair. Perhaps the best thing you can say is that Riis is a barometer for the health of the sport, and view it accordingly.

        • morten reippuert Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:12 pm

          Its worth mentioning that 60% nickname ws given by the competitors who assumed that he was at 60& because he was faster then them when they where at 58%… he was never messured above 53%. Which was in the lower end in the nauthies.

        • J Evans Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:17 pm

          I’d be interested to hear the details of those two things you mention, Larry – I looked them up, but found nothing.

          • Larry T Friday, 10 January 2020, 4:14 pm

            I found video of his comments on Casartelli and found them less crass than I remember at the time when the quotes (we were following the tour that year from stage to stage) were more like “We should have just raced”. We all knew full well that he felt robbed of a chance to beat BigMig, but a guy was killed for Pietro’s sake! I couldn’t find any clips of his antics on the Giro stage, but I think it was actually before the Crostis debacle. I remember watching on live TV and seeing him on the back of the moto and then yelling at the screen when his moto driver seemed to get in the way of a competitor for no reason. Based on his complaints about the stage beforehand it’s hard not to assume this was a nasty move done with purpose. I left out his imperious Hautacam escapade (again, we were there) though I remember saying at the time he was showing off, “What an a-hole!” only finding out years later that the “big ring” he was using to show off wasn’t as big as everyone thought. It was one of the first “compact” setups, something you see plenty of riders today cranking away on steep slopes.

        • Morten Reippuert Knudsen Thursday, 9 January 2020, 10:00 pm

          so 1 doper/rider died becauyse he dint ride with a helmet – that its tragic. Its also tragic when an Iranian is blown out of the sky with a missile from a drone over Irak.

          Truth was only GC rider/doper wanted to race the next day – because only 1 doper/rider thought he could win the tour that day. If Indurain or once thought they could have won the TDF that day they would have been interrested in raceing that day too.

          racing or not raceing made no differernce and the motorola team (with lance) riding accross the line in harmony was just hollow marketing bulshite.

  • not yoda Friday, 10 January 2020, 12:01 am

    I am delighted to see the brief mention of the Roodhooft brothers. Hope to see a piece on them sooner than later. Other than providing a solid base for Mathieu Van der Poel, a host other talented but less outlier stats, I wonder what makes them different. Why aren’t there more of them entrepreneurs in cycling?

  • astram Friday, 10 January 2020, 8:15 pm

    The danish takeover brings also a new rider: Michael Carbel has a contract for one year at NTT.

  • David Sunday, 12 January 2020, 10:50 am

    Did I oversleep my winter hibernation? Is it grand tour season already?

  • Larry T Sunday, 12 January 2020, 1:08 pm

    Eskerrik Asko: You write “who are the WT team owner who’d say no Riis and his partners…?” means I have to name one or more? I can’t just hope that not every team owner lacks ethical wisdom and will simply “take the money” no matter the source? I know (sadly) this is often the case, but that fact is what my original posts were about and the result is too few with ethics seem to want to be involved in the sport, so “Mr, 60%” and his ilk are welcomed back with open arms.
    You also write “…what’s wrong with pro cycling is not that there are general managers or team owners who five years ago in a similar situation said or would have said no to Riis, but now said yes.” I disagree and think this is a big problem, but would like to read what you think IS wrong with pro cycling…should more teams take money from questionable sources so there would be more money overall? Would more money make everything better and solve whatever is wrong with the sport?
    I know not everyone will agree but big money from questionable sources, combined with ethically-challenged management is a recipe for more teams like INEOS or perhaps Bahrain-McLaren, neither of which IMHO are a + for the sport and its image.

    • Eskerrik Asko Sunday, 12 January 2020, 9:44 pm

      You don’t have to name one, more than one than all such World Tour (or Pro Continental aiming at success and/or WT status) team owners or general managers. I did assume that you had someone in mind when you typed “BS” in capital letters in response to my comment – and I would’ve been curious to know who were on your list.

      What I think is wrong with pro cycling is pretty much what the Inner Ring has written on the subject. I don’t think the solution to its problems to say no to new sponsors, no matter how big the sack of money they bring is. I don’t think the solution is putting a limit or a ceiling to how high a team’s budget can be. But I have to agree that big sponsors that are happy with success regardless of how it is achieved (and that may be happier with knowing that it is achieved with doping as they can then be more certain success will follow, as we now know was often the case in the past) are a part of the problem.

      But the one thing I’m fairly sure of is that there weren’t more team owners and general managers around five years ago who, in your words, had ethical wisdom than there are today – and that there weren’t any who had ethical wisdom five years ago but don’t have it anymore.

      Let’s keep ourselves and those near and dear to us happy by riding safely until the spring classics (so that we can express a similar wish extending over the summer season)!

      • Larry T Monday, 13 January 2020, 12:34 pm

        You write: “..there weren’t more team owners and general managers around five years ago who, in your words, had ethical wisdom than there are today – and that there weren’t any who had ethical wisdom five years ago but don’t have it anymore.”
        I’m confused. It seems that you are then claiming this is a fake quote: “For us, it has not been possible to start a collaboration with Bjarne Riis. The values of our new sponsors do not align with the history of Riis having previously doped.”
        It seems to me (otherwise, why was it included in the piece?) that this is most certainly a change – and IMHO, not a good one.
        I’ll leave it there because as Mr. Inrng wrote “There will be some online outrage at Riis’s return but some of this is misplaced. Instead surely the problem is the sport can’t seem to attract or promote new faces.” and his second sentence is the more important. Safe riding 🙂

        • Eskerrik Asko Monday, 13 January 2020, 3:46 pm

          Larry, Larry, Larry…you’re confused because you don’t read what is written, you read what you want to read.
          In my first (and what I foolishly thought was the only comment that was needed) comment I pointed out – quite nicely, not snidely – that it was the then new sponsor, Dimension Data, that said no. The then general manager (Brian Smith, who as I told you left the team soon afterwards) merely repeated what the sponsor with the sack of money had said. That is all we know. It was only your interpretation, your stretching of the facts that the general manager.
          You like to think that the general manager would’ve said no even if Dimension Data had welcomed Riis. I simply am not familiar enough with Brian Smith and his history in pro cycling to make such a leap of faith.

          The Inner Ring included it in the piece because it established the background to the deal and because it explained why a deal never happened in 2015. The Inner Ring didn’t use it as an illustration of what you have purported to be.

          Money talked in 2015, money talked in 2020. The money in 2015 had a different voice and a different thing to say. That’s all. If anything, you should lament the fact that there was no new sponsor in sight to replace Dimension Data. A sponsor that would have told Ryder that their values do not align with the history of Riis having previously doped. A sponsor with as big a sack of money as Riis and his partners brought it or promised to bring in next year.

  • Anonymous Monday, 13 January 2020, 1:16 am

    Bjarne Riis brings more money into pro cycling in 2020. Some people are unhappy about this while others think it is a good thing. Istvan Varjas sees it simply as another opportunity.

  • Joe Saroni Monday, 13 January 2020, 9:07 pm

    Personally, I’m pleased that he’s back in. Completely eliminating anyone who has doped does not necessarily make the sport more ethical. Having the perspective of ex-dopers in not a negative thing.
    As to the comments of his character, well, this is professional sports. If we made character judgements on all the riders and managers, all sports would crumble.
    Cycling has lifted the lid and aired its dirty laundry more than most professional sports, so maybe we know too much. On the other hand, Doug Ryder may be a clean great guy, but his under achieving team was pretty boring. From a spectators perspective, adding Riis makes for interesting viewing. Pro cycling has never been church league basketball, but personally I have loved the sport since my childhood and will continue to watch. It’s entertainment, I’ll save my frustration for world political matters. If you don’t like, don’t watch. When you choose to be a fan of professional cycling, you should understand it comes with a lot of baggage, personally, I get it, I tend not to travel light.
    Thanks inring for the post.

    • Larry T Tuesday, 14 January 2020, 4:15 pm

      Just wondering if you’d extend that welcome to “BigTex” as well? Would pro cycling somehow be improved with the guy who perpetrated the “biggest sporting fraud in history” still involved at the top (or any) level? Pete Rose back in MLB? Ben Johnson running IAAF? Rosie Ruiz on the board of the Boston Marathon?

      • RQS Wednesday, 15 January 2020, 8:57 pm

        Who would you take? Carl Lewis or Ben Johnson?

    • CA Tuesday, 14 January 2020, 4:29 pm

      Houston Rockets stealing signs to win the World Series….
      I’m sure the term “biggest sporting fraud in history” referring to Big Tex will be put into perspective over time. Lance and his team did nothing that wasn’t done at other teams, and let’s be honest other sports teams.

      People, Inrng asked us to cut it out. Inrng’s own conclusion isn’t that Riis has no business in the sport, instead he’s taking a pragmatic standpoint and we all should too.

      • Larry T Wednesday, 15 January 2020, 8:44 am

        CA writes “I’m sure the term “biggest sporting fraud in history” referring to Big Tex will be put into perspective over time. Lance and his team did nothing that wasn’t done at other teams, and let’s be honest other sports teams.”
        BigTex’ fraud might well be overshadowed when/if they ever figure out what some teams that came around after were up to, while your second part smacks of Tex’ whine “But Mommy, the other kids did it too!”
        But yes, we need to move on as it seems nothing will change views that sport is and should be all about money and entertainment (and little else) in the minds of many folks and vice-versa, an argument that’s probably almost as old as sport itself?

      • RQS Wednesday, 15 January 2020, 9:03 pm

        If Lance and his team were only doing what other teams did, do you think he would have won seven TdFs?
        If Lance was doing the same as every other team why does Tyler Hamilton write about US Postal as being exceptional?
        If Lance was doing the same as every other team why is it that he was suing every whack-a-mole story which came up to expose the truth?
        Also, he’s responsible for the most heinous blasphemy since the Big Bang – IT IS about the bike…. FFS