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.

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Sunday Shorts

Armstrong’s popularity plummets, ranked alonside Michael Bolton
Dallasnews.com tries to offer some metrics on Armstrong’s falling popularity. Clearly retirement meant he became less visible but last week’s revelations have punctured his public image.

Now he’s ranked 2,192 (out of 2,500 celebrities tracked by the Dallas agency) on par with Michael Bolton. As for endorsement value, he once was in there with Brad Pitt, slipped to Steven Spielberg, and now is neck-n-neck with foul-mouthed singer Nicky Minaj. People trust him about as much as they do Paula Abdul.

This might be amusing but there’s a serious point to this as well. If he begins to fall then don’t be surprised to see the media tear strips off him. Just as his rise was chronicled, now there’s a chance his downfall takes place in front of cameras, gossip mags and websites.

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Oleg Tinkov Returns

The Saxo Bank team unveiled a new co-sponsor today: Tinkoff Bank. The team will now be called Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank, a mouthful that will be awkward to pronounce and type.

It marks the return of Oleg Tinkov to the sport. A Russian entrepreneur, he is a lively character with a past unlike almost anyone else in the sport.

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Contador Signs For Saxo Bank

It’s official, Alberto Contador has signed a three and half year contract to ride for Saxo Bank. He will rejoin the Danish team in August and ride for them until the end of 2015.

Contador is like a corner piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Once he is in place with Saxo Bank other riders in the market can now be placed with different teams.

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Book Review: Riis, Stages of Light and Dark

Riis Stages of Light and Dark by Bjarne Riis

Bjarne Riis won the 1996 Tour de France and later confessed to doping. This alone makes his autobiography of interest because few have won the race, admitted they cheated and then wrote a book about the experience. But there’s more since as Riis has since become an influential team owner and the book covers a lot of his time in management.

A page-turning book that covers big moments in the sport and features an intriguing man with many news ideas for the sport… this is also a frustrating read.

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UCI to rule on Team Saxo Bank’s future

Can UCI throw team out of World Tour races? Is this a collective punishment?

The PCC took note that further to the CAS decision earlier this week concerning Alberto Contador, the UCI will today ask its Licence Commission to issue a ruling on whether the Saxo Bank-Sungard team should retain its place in the UCI WorldTour. If the points obtained by Alberto Contador, representing approximately 68% of the Saxo Bank-Sungard team’s total points, are disregarded, his team would no longer be considered to fulfil the sporting criterion required for the UCI WorldTour.

That’s the UCI in a press release today. They got the team’s name wrong, it is Saxo Bank only but that is the least of Bjarne Riis’s worries right now as the future of his cycling team is at stake. Alberto Contador has been banned, he loses the 2010 Tour de France and all results from January 2011 onwards but on top of this he forfeits the points and prizes too.

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Highlights of 2011 – Part II

Five moments from 2011. They are a personal choice like any list sometimes you omit more than you include but I’ll explain each moment. They’re presented in no particular order.

What does it feel like to win a big race? Well the video clip above gives you a clue. It is the Tour of Flanders and Nick Nuyens wins for Saxo Bank. The race itself was great to watch, a battle that provide surprises all the way to the finish.

But one addition was the use of cameras inside the team cars. A small innovation, you’d think video footage of a man driving a car would be dull and normally you’d be right. But the cameras caught the action from the Saxo Bank team car with Bjarne Riis and Tristan Hoffman momentarily going beserk with joy.

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Trophies and what to do with them

Evans Tirrenno

There’s an impressive diversity of silverware and commemorative trophies awarded to the winners of bike races. Cadel Evans picked up what looks to be the largest item of the year. It’s a trident, the symbol of greco-roman sea gods and awarded to the winner of Tirren0-Adriatico, the “race of two seas”. It makes you wonder what he’ll do with it, indeed whether he managed to fit it in the team car.

Normally you get something more modest but still prestigious. Having won Milan-Sanremo, Matthew Goss gets something that fits more easily into the trophy cabinet and it’s ok, aesthetically. It’s not always so, Tour de France stage winners get a block of perspex which, for me, doesn’t quite capture the significance of their win, it’s a tribute to the sponsor, not the sport.

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Riis confuses the message

A quick comment on Bjarne Riis. There’s no point commenting on every silly comment that appears but still, sometimes people say strange things and it’s worth a quick look… Is that red wine? I almost feel sorry for Riis. Almost. 2010 was a stinker of a year for him. He might have been delighted with … Read more

Duvet Days

A cycling fan might be forgiven for wanting to stay in bed. News of the ongoing saga of Contador’s case isn’t too cheerful. First, up rather than an orderly hearing by the Spanish authorities it’s only taken hours for Juan Carlos Castaño, President of the RFEC, to publically say he’s got Contador’s back, he’s known … Read more