Bjarne Riis: Wikis


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Bjarne Riis
Bjarne Riis.jpg
Personal information
Full name Bjarne Lykkegård Riis
Nickname Ørnen fra Herning
(The Eagle from Herning)
Date of birth April 3, 1964 (1964-04-03) (age 45)
Country Denmark
Team information
Current team Team Saxo Bank
Discipline Road
Role Team Manager
Rider type All-rounder
Professional team(s)1
Ceramiche Ariostea
Team Telekom
Managerial team(s)1
1999– Team home-Jack & Jones
Major wins
1989 Giro d'Italia, 1 stage
1993 Giro d'Italia, 1 stage
1993 Tour de France, 1 stage
1994 Tour de France, 1 stage
1996 Tour de France, and 2 stages
1997 Amstel Gold Race
Infobox last updated on:
July 8, 2009

1 Team names given are those prevailing
at time of rider beginning association with that team.

Bjarne Lykkegård Riis (born April 3, 1964 in Herning), nicknamed the Eagle from Herning[1] (Danish: Ørnen fra Herning), is a Danish former professional road bicycle racer who won the 1996 Tour de France, and is now the team owner and manager of Danish UCI ProTour outfit Team Saxo Bank. Other career highlights include winning the Amstel Gold Race in 1997, multiple Danish National Championships, and stage wins in the Giro d'Italia. On May 25 2007 he admitted that he won the Tour de France using banned substances, and he was no longer considered the winner by the tour's organizers.[2] In July 2008 he is back on the list of Tour winners, but with additional notes about his use of doping.[3]



Riis began cycling at local club Herning CK. When he was not selected for the 1984 Summer Olympics, former cyclist Kim Andersen advised Riis to start his professional career not in Italy, but in Luxembourg.[4] His professional career started in 1986, his first result was a fifth place finish in the GP Wallonie that year. Following a few years with no personal wins, he had yet to impress when his contract ran out in 1988.

At the 1988 Tour of European Community race, while riding for the Toshiba team, Riis and fellow Danish rider Kim Eriksen were contacted by the former Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon from the Systeme U team. Fignon was leading the Tour of European Community race, but he needed a few riders to help him secure the victory. In the hope of earning a contract with Systeme U,[5] Riis helped Fignon achieve the victory and in December 1988 he moved to sports director Cyrille Guimard's Systeme U team as a support rider for Fignon.[4] For the next three years Riis rode as Fignon's eternal helper in both flat and mountainous terrain, and they became close friends.[6] Riis helped Fignon win the 1989 Giro d'Italia, while Riis himself won his first professional victory as he secured the 9th stage of the Giro.

Tour de France success

When Fignon retired in 1992, Bjarne Riis contacted fellow Danish rider Rolf Sørensen, who got him a job as a rider for Italian team Ariostea under sporting director Giancarlo Ferretti. Riis won the Châlon-sur-Marne stage during the 1993 Tour de France and also wore the polka dot jersey for a day.[7] He finished 5th place overall, which was the best Danish result in Tour history at the time, beating Leif Mortensen's 6th place finish in the 1971 Tour de France. Riis was ill during the 1994 Tour de France but managed a stage win by going on a break-away and then racing solo for the last 30 km of the day. With the sprinter teams chasing him, he won the stage by just a few seconds. Riis finished 3rd at the 1995 Tour de France, the first Dane to reach the podium in Paris, and was named the sensation of the 1995 Tour.[8]

For the 1996 season, Riis switched to the Telekom team. The week before the 1996 Tour de France, he had won the Danish Road Racing Championship. As a result of snow on both the Col de l'Iseran and the Col du Galibier, the scheduled 190 km stage 9 from Val-d'Isère to Sestriere in Italy was truncated and reduced to a 46 km sprint from Le-Monetier-les-Bains[3] which was claimed by Riis, opening a 44 second gap over his team mate Jan Ullrich. Riis ended up winning the 1996 Tour by one minute forty one over Ullrich, ending Miguel Indurain's 5 year winning streak. The win was instrumental in turning then Telekom (now Team Columbia) from a small team, struggling to get an invitation to the 1995 Tour and only managing to send half a team, into one of the biggest teams in road racing. It also had a huge positive effect on the development of cycling in Denmark - both in terms of participation and in spectator interest.

In 1997, he won the spring classic Amstel Gold Race, with a great effort, riding solo from a long way out, in pouring rain. Bjarne Riis was the favourite at the 1997 Tour de France, but instead it was his young German teammate Jan Ullrich, who won the overall competition, with Riis finishing 7th. On his way to the startup at stage 2 of the 1999 Tour de Suisse, Bjarne Riis hit the curb and crashed. The sustained injuries to his elbow and knee ultimately forced him to retire in the spring of 2000 at the age of 36.[4]

Doping allegations

In the aftermath of the performance enhancing drugs crisis in cycling following the 1998 Tour de France, Riis acquired the nickname of Mr. 60%, a suggestion that he has used doping.[9][10] The 60% is an allusion to a high hematocrit (red blood cell) level, an indication of EPO usage. It has been published, but never proven, that Riis had a hematocrit level of 56% during one test in July 1995[11]; well above typical natural levels, as well as his published reading of 41% in the offseason earlier that year.[12] The earliest mention of the nickname can be traced to interviews with riders of Festina in 1998-2000, who apparently suggested that if they had been doped above 50%, then Riis must have been doped to at least 60% since he was able to win the Tour de France in 1996 ahead of the Festina rider Richard Virenque: in Willy Voet's book Breaking the Chain, he mentions that Festina's team doctor would not allow EPO to be administered if a rider's hematocrit level was near 55%.[13] Bjarne Riis never tested positive as a rider, though no EPO test existed at that time. Reports have noted, however, that police in Italy found evidence that Riis may have been among riders treated with EPO in 1994 and 1995 by medical researchers under Professor Francesco Conconi at the University of Ferrara, which resulted in prosecutions against Conconi and also involved Michele Ferrari.[14] Files used in the court case apparently showed fluctuations in Riis' hematocrit from 41% to 56.3%.[1]

Speculations about Bjarne Riis's doping use was further fuelled by his ambiguous denials. When asked whether he used doping he repeatedly stated that "I have never been tested positive". A statement that falls somewhat short of an outright denial.[15]

Doping admission

On 21 May 2007, Riis' former Telekom-team mate Bert Dietz admitted that he had used doping during his Telekom-time.[16] This prompted other former team mates, Christian Henn and Udo Bölts, and two former team doctors, to admit their involvement in doping.[17] On 24 May, two other team mates Rolf Aldag, Erik Zabel and Brian Holm confessed.[18]

Following this series of confessions, on May 25, 2007 Riis issued a press release that he also had made "mistakes" in the past,[19] and in the following press conference confessed to taking EPO, growth hormone and cortisone for 5 years, from 1993 to 1998, including during his victory in the 1996 Tour de France.[20] Riis said that he bought and injected the EPO himself, and team coach Walter Godefroot turned a blind eye to the drug use on the team.[21][22] Riis was removed from the official record books of Tour de France,[23] but in July 2008 he was written back into the books, along with additional notes about his use of doping.[3]

The reactions on Riis’s admission have been truly mixed. Some critics have stamped him as a cheater, and claimed that the results Riis has achieved in his career are worthless.[24] Others have argued that Riis is still a worthy winner of 1996 Tour de France, among them Tour de France commentator and bike enthusiast Jørgen Leth.[25]

Team manager

Following his retirement, a new life opened up. Bjarne Riis had from the start been one of the people behind Danish cycling team Home-Jack & Jones, which became the first Danish team competing in the Tour de France. Following doping allegations and suspension of Home-Jack & Jones rider Marc Streel in 1999, Home withdrew its sponsorship. Bjarne Riis bought the majority of the team through its controlling company Professional Cycling Denmark (PCD), and he became the team manager. In 2001, the team changed sponsor to CSC/World Online, then CSC/Tiscali, and in the seasons 2003 to 2007 the American IT company CSC was the sole sponsor of Team CSC. In season 2008 CSC shared the sponsorship with the Danish bank Saxo Bank which as of season 2009 has been the sole team sponsor. Riis renamed PCD to Riis Cycling A/S in 2003. Before the 2005 season, Team CSC had financial problems and some of the riders were asked to take a wage cut. Riis used his own money to keep the team running throughout his first years as team manager, an expenditure he later vowed never to repeat[26] when a new sponsor deal was signed during the 2005 Tour de France.

As a team manager, his team has been involved in relatively few doping cases, with no rider being convicted for using doping while on his team. However, Ivan Basso, who was Team CSC's 2006 Tour de France general classification contender was removed from the team prior to the beginning of the Tour according to the UCI ProTour rules due to his possible involvement in the Operación Puerto doping case,[27] an involvement confirmed by Basso himself in April 2007.[28] Basso had Dr Luigi Cecchini as his personal trainer,[29] a sports scientist who worked with Riis during the 1996 Tour de France, and was involved with CSC since Riis started there.[30] Italian police have alleged that Cecchini had an ongoing relationship with Eufemiano Fuentes.[1] Basso's contract with Team CSC has since ended.

The story of team CSC during the 2004 Tour de France has been captured in a documentary titled "Overcoming"[31].

Major results

1st Stage 9, Giro d'Italia
1st Stage 2, Tour of European Community
95th Overall, Tour de France
1st Stage 7, Stage 9, Tour of European Community
107th Overall, Tour de France
Denmark Danish Road Racing Championship
1st Stage 7, Giro d'Italia
5th Overall, Tour de France
1st Stage 7
14th Overall, Tour de France
1st Stage 13
Denmark Danish Road Racing Championship
1st Overall, Danmark Rundt
1st Stage 3B
3rd Overall, Tour de France
Denmark Danish Road Racing Championship
Denmark Danish Individual Time Trial Championship
1st Overall Jersey yellow.svg Tour de France,
1st Stage 9, Stage 16
Coppa Sabatini
1st Amstel Gold Race
1st Stage 4A, GP Wilhelm Tell
7th Overall, Tour de France
1st Stage 5, Vasca a Arrate
11th Overall, Tour de France


  • Mader, Jørn. Ørnen fra Herning - bogen om Bjarne Riis (The eagle from Herning - the book about Bjarne Riis), Denmark, 1995, ISBN 87-412-2850-2
  • Werge, Lars. Drømmeholdet - historien om CSC (The dream team - the history of CSC), Denmark, 2005, ISBN 87-7731-206-6

See also


  1. ^ a b c Matt Rendell and Susanne Horsdal (2006-07-02). "Life After Lance". The Observer. 
  2. ^ "Tour no longer lists Riis as champ after doping admission". Associated Press/ESPN. 2007-06-07. 
  3. ^ a b c Augendre, Jacques (2009). "Guide Historique" (in French). ASO. p. 95. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c "1996: Bjarne Riis" (in Dutch). 12 May 2003. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  5. ^ Mader (1995), p. 48-50.
  6. ^ Mader (1995), p. 151-152. Afterword by Laurent Fignon.
  7. ^ ""Me encuentro mejor que nunca"" (in Spanish). El Mundo Deportive. 11 July 1993. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  8. ^ Wybren de boer (21 July 1995). "Bjarne Riis en Ivan Gotti laten zich niet langer knechten" (in Dutch). Volkskrant. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  9. ^ Jeremy Whittle (2 May 2008). "Bjarne Riis's year without lying: 'Now I feel free'". New York Times. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  10. ^ "Bjarne Riis: Bearing the burden of truth". Cyclingnews. 11 March 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  11. ^ "Danish TV claim Riis used drugs in 1995". Cyclingnews. 14 January 1999. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  12. ^ (French) Les curieuses statistiques de Gewiss, Cyclisme & Dopage
  13. ^ Voet, Willy; Fotheringham, William (2002). Breaking the Chain: Drugs and Cycling: The True Story. Random House. ISBN 0224061178. 
  14. ^ "More doping allegations". Cyclingnews. 30 October 2000. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  15. ^ Bjarne Riis: Jeg har taget doping, Politiken
  16. ^ "Dietz says Telekom doctors offered EPO". Associated Press. ESPN. 22 May 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  17. ^ "Doctors confirm involvement while working for Telekom team". Associated Press. ESPN. 23 May 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  18. ^ "Telekom teammates of past Tour winners admit taking EPO". Associated Press. ESPN. 24 May 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  19. ^ "Team CSC Press Release". Press release. 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  20. ^ "Riis, Tour de France Champ, Says He Took Banned Drugs". 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  21. ^ "Riis confesses to doping offences". BBC News. 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  22. ^ "Former Tour de France winner Riis admits doping". 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  23. ^ "Riis out of the Tour record books". 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  24. ^ "Danske aviser hårde ved Riis". Retrieved 2007-06-26. 
  25. ^ "Intet ændret for Jørgen Leth". Retrieved 2007-06-26. 
  26. ^ Werge (2005), p. 149
  27. ^ John Ward Anderson (1 July 2006). "Doping Scandal Rocks Cycling". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  28. ^ "Basso handed two-year doping ban". BBC. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  29. ^ Jerome Pugmire (21 July 2004). "Once rejected by his team, Basso is now a top Tour contender". Associated Press. 
  30. ^ "Riis defends Hamilton's doc". 2004-09-26. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  31. ^ Website for the documentary Overcoming

External links

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