Zipp News

Back 7.8.2009

Bjarne Riis Talks to Zipp

Following a long racing career highlighted by winning the 1996 Tour de France, Bjarne Riis moved seamlessly into a new role as a team manager. He built Team CSC into the  #1 team in the world and achieved his first Tour de France win as a manager in 2008 with Carlos Sastre's victory. 2009 has been a year of new beginnings: Saxo Bank has taken over as title sponsor, the team has moved to Specialized bikes and SRAM components, and Team Saxo Bank's GC hopes now rest with the Schleck brothers.

With all of the changes in your program this year, have there been any
unexpected challenges? What has remained the same?

WE'VE TRIED TO KEEP OUR FOCUS AND I HONESTLY THINK THAT ALL THE CHANGES HAVE BEEN FOR THE BETTER. WE DON'T STRIVE TO BE THE SAME AS LAST YEAR OR TO CONTINUE IN THE SAME TRACK. WE NEED TO DEVELOP AND CHANGE IS A DRIVING FORCE FOR MY TEAM.

When you began the team building "boot camps" with B.S. Christiansen, it was a new concept for a cycling team. What was the inspiration for that?

TO DO THINGS DIFFRENTLY AND TO BUILD UP SOMETHING SPECIAL. CYCLING IS A TEAM SPORT AND CANNOT BE BOILED DOWN TO INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES. ON OUR CAMPS WE LEARN TO STICK TOGETHER AND WORK AS A GROUP.

Your generation of racers saw huge changes in bike technology. Did you
embrace them at the time? How has modern equipment changed racing?

I'VE ALWAYS BEEN EXTREMELY AWARE OF EQUIPMENT AND TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT. AS A RIDER I NEVER ACCEPTED THE SECOND BEST AND THAT PHILOSOPHY I STILL HAVE WHEN IT COMES TO THE EQUIPMENT.

Can you describe the transition from rider to manager? Were there any
surprises on the business side of the sport?

A LOT OF SUPRISES FOR SURE, BUT IT HAS BEEN A GREAT CHALLENGE FOR ME PERSONALLY. I'VE BEEN VERY FORTUNATE TO GATHER A GROUP OF GOOD PEOPLE AROUND ME AND THAT HAS HELPED TO BRIDGE THE GAP.

Many people think that there should be a stronger organization to
advocate for the riders' interests. Do you agree?

DEFINITELY, BUT IT HAS COME FROM THE RIDERS REALIZING THE NEED FOR THIS.

Photo: Tim De Waele