Riis been described by some as "cycling's most boring man", a
description I concur with in my experience covering TV cycling as a
reporter and presenter.
But is he really all that? Maybe it's a Danish thing or a simple contrast in cultures that I haven't been able to navigate.
that I also see Riis as having many positives (no pun intended). He's a
man who has done much for Danish cycling and as a sporting director
for one of the WorldTour's most successful squads, Saxo Bank.
to any rider who has worked under him and they'll tell you he's a canny
team manager who commands and expects the utmost respect and always
Riis has been an integral member of the
international cycling community for decades, so when his feathers are
ruffled it's usually for good reason.
That was the case this week
when the UCI reiterated that riders returning from serving a doping
sanction cannot have their points considered for two years after their
return. The rule, originally ratified late last year, targets the
calculation of points for each ProTeam's ongoing WorldTour licence.
recap. The UCI ranks the teams according to rider points, team points,
ethical and financial considerations. In meeting this criteria the top
15 teams gain entry to the next WorldTour season while a further three
have to prove their credentials, as GreenEDGE successfully did late last
In other words, when Alberto Contador comes back from
suspension in August he could win the Vuelta a Espana, but his triumph
will count for nothing except bragging rights.
Saxo Bank is not
the only team affected by the UCI's ruling. So is Movistar with
Alejandro Valverde. But that Spanish squad is in the enviable position
of having greater depth, accumulating ranking points regularly this
season and as a result isn't under any real threat of missing the UCI
cut for 2013.
As Riis pointed out last
week, it's comparable to FIFA's three-time Player of the Year, Lionel
Messi coming back after a suspension yet he continues to score goals for
Barcelona, but the goals don't count.
"We can under no
circumstance accept the current rules. It's akin to a player like Lionel
Messi serving a violent conduct suspension and after returning having
his goals not count for Barcelona (football club)," said Riis.
is a very expensive rider for any team to hire and naturally having him
on a team and not earning points makes it difficult for a team to
remain in the WorldTour."
Now you could argue Riis is motivated
by self interest with his Saxo Bank team the wooden spooners of the UCI
WorldTour - currently with a grand total of 32 points as a result of two
victories by the injured Australian Jonathan Cantwell at the Tour of
Taiwan and a recent win by their highest ranked rider, Juan Jose Haedo,
at the GP de Denain.
With his suspension coming in May of this
year, Contador's two stage wins and second place on the general
classification at January's Tour de San Luis were scrubbed (along with
every result backdated to the 2010 Tour de France).
Riis also has
the support of riders like Karsten Kroon in his crusade against the
system. And Kroon isn't just concerned about his livelihood at Saxo
Bank, he also noted how the points system affects a rider and teams
approach to racing.
"The whole situation with the WorldTour has
changed the way of racing. I think a lot of riders would rather go for a
third or fourth than try to go for the win," Kroon told Daniel Benson at Cyclingnews.
"For me, personally, the win is more important, but of course I get
paid by the team and for the team, the WorldTour points are more
It's highly likely we will see the demise of Saxo
Bank at the end of this season so Riis and Kroon are fighting for their
survival and can probably be excused a bit of self interest.
latest scenario suggests Contador will have no option but to find
another team for the 2013 season (rumoured to be Movistar).
Disappointing given the solid relationship, faith and support he has
received from Riis, and how much Saxo Bank (and CSC before it) has
provided in sponsorship down the years.
It really is a ludicrous
situation in which the UCI has placed the WorldTour. Let's hope sanity
prevails and they overturn their latest ruling and reassess the merits
of the points system.
And while I don't really have ambitions of
connecting with one of cycling's most complex personalities in the near
future, I'll make a special effort to congratulate Riis if he were to
win this necessary battle.