Riis: 'CSC only team with values'

Saturday, March 12, 2005 12.00am
CSC team manager Bjarne Riis always has some interesting opinions on the state of the sport, and he
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Bjarne Riis, directeur sportif of team of the moment, CSC, has criticised the "old-fashioned" value system of professional cycling and also argued for a more open and transparent professional milieu. "This sport is very old-fashioned," Riis said. "That is what we need to change." The former Tour de France champion told procycling at the start of stage five of Paris-Nice that he had doubts, however, that his assessment would be shared by other leading team managers. "If you went to another sports director and said 'Riis says this and that, and that he has values,' he might say, 'So what?' And he might not even understand what values are," Riis said. "I think we are the only team in the world that works with values. It's easy to have values - but the big thing is to work with them and live with them. I take a lot of time to explain to the riders what the consequences are if they don't stick with those values. "For some people, this is all a bit 'out there,'" Riis continued, spreading his arms wide, "but we can take it down and explain what it really means and give examples." Riis agreed that he was talking about doping, as much as about work rate and team work. "I am aware of ethical values," said Riis, who added that he also realised that cycling was "delicately poised" and "fragile". The Danish former professional has this week enhanced his growing reputation as a champion of lost causes after the transformation of Paris-Nice leader, Bobby Julich, of the USA, under his tutelage. Three years ago, when he chose to move to T-Mobile, Julich had accepted, by his own admission, that he was no longer a stage race contender. So how on earth did Riis change the American's mindset and restore his broken morale? "It's not as if we treated him any differently from anybody else. My most important role in the team is to motivate and coach my riders. Sure, I get satisfaction from seeing somebody who had been struggling become successful, but the most important thing for any human being is motivation. "Everybody needs to be coached, even me. Everybody needs motivation to do their best in life. I've spent a lot of energy and time to analyse my riders to find the best way to get them to be better bike riders. "Physical performance is not everything in cycling. You can't be as good as you want to physically if you're not mentally OK. You see a lot of young guys and they don't have the mental strength that others have. They need a coach, they need to be helped mentally." Although Riis agreed that sometimes it was easier to motivate under-achieving riders as they neared the end of their careers, he denied that age was a decisive factor. "You have to have the right mentality to ride on a team with the special values that we have." Riis argued that for riders to be successful with CSC they had to leave behind the "old- fashioned" values that frustrated him. "I try to give them everything that I can give them but they need to be open to me and my ideas. If they're not open to that, then we can't make the right tactics, or strategy and we can't help them when they really need help." But he emphasised that, even with the launch of the ProTour, major change was needed if cycling was to emerge in a healthier condition from the ethical controversies of recent years. "Sure, I know that," he said. "I know what I feel about that, but I can't speak for others. I see details in cycling that have to change." Could he give examples? "I can, but I won't right now," Riis said enigmatically. "There's something I am working on but right now I won't tell you what I really mean by that. Maybe a couple of months from now I will tell you. Let's talk about it later."

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