Riis: no hard feelings for Tyler

Bjarne Riis expresses his opinion on a big name American trio of riders - his former team leader Tyl

Bjarne Riis expresses his opinion on a big name American trio of riders - his former team leader Tyl
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM CSC boss Bjarne Riis told procycling that, despite the fall-out from Tyler Hamilton's recent doping controversy and subsequent legal wrangle, he had no hard feelings towards his former team leader. "We worked well with Tyler," Riis said. "What he's been doing after he left our team is not really my problem. We took care of him when he was in our team and I think that's the most important thing." As Hamilton awaits the looming outcome of his hearing at the USADA (the United States Anti-Doping Agency), the adverse effects of the long-running legal wrangle centred on the former CSC rider have had a dramatic effect on the IMAX film made during the 2003 Tour, which focused on his fourth place finish, when riding as CSC's leader. The film is now reputed to have undergone a substantial re-edit, to reduce Hamilton's presence in the final cut. "We spent a lot of energy on that, that's for sure," Riis agreed. "But that's life - you take decisions with the best information you have at the time, but you can't always know what the consequences will be. I spent time on the film, a lot of time with my team, but I didn't spend any money on it - although sometimes, time is money." But Riis was unsure of what lay ahead for his former team leader. "I don't know what's going to happen to him," he said. "But I have my opinion. If somebody does something that they are not allowed to do, then they have to take the consequences." And, like many others in the Paris-Nice convoy, Riis refused to question the wisdom of Lance Armstrong's decision to race in the 2005 'course au soleil.' "He is the one who is responsible for his own life," responded Riis. "Of course, it's not nice for cycling for Hein Verbruggen to give him the first ProTour jersey, for him to ride for three days, and then stop. That's not nice. But Armstrong's responsible for what he's been doing over the winter. It's up to him." Despite insisting earlier in the week that Paris-Nice would not be decided until the last of two ascents of the Col d'Eze on Sunday, both Bobby Julich and Bjarne Riis appeared confident tonight that Julich's 19-second cushion would see him through to victory on the Promenade des Anglais tomorrow. Julich claimed that local knowledge would help him and his team repel the attacks which are expected to materialise from Constantino Zaballa and Alejandro Valverde, who currently occupy second and third positions respectively on GC. "I have a lot of faith because I know every single one of the climbs, every metre of tomorrow's course," said Team CSC's 33-year-old comeback kid. "I live in Nice during the season, although in reality I'm almost always away from the house with the team. Still, I think I can consider myself half 'Niois'. "The team rode perfectly today and consequently I didn't have much to do," Julich continued. "It felt great to be in the yellow jersey as it has been eight years since my last one, in the Tour de l'Ain in 1997." The man widely credited with Julich's revival, CSC team boss Bjarne Riis, was equally delighted with his team's performance. Riis was happy for his riders to patrol the front of the peloton as a seven-man breakaway fought amongst themselves for a stage victory which eventually went to Rabobank's Joost Posthuma. Julich cruised home in 18th place, a strong following wind having put paid to Saunier Duval and Illes Balears' plans to attack him in the closing stages. "It turned out perfectly," said Riis. "The team is very strong and united, whereas I don't think that is necessarily true of Valverde and Illes Balears. It was a tough course today and the other teams seemed happy to sit back and let us take responsibility. "Bobby looks convincing," the Dane continued. "The Col d'Eze is potentially crucial - it's certainly the place where our rivals will need to attack. I can envisage three or four men trying to get away, but I think that Bobby will have the legs to follow. He trusts the team and he is confident. Is he nervous? A little, but that's inevitable when you are on the brink of a big success." Sunday's final stage measures 135km in length and features one second and one first category climb before a double ascent of the 7.8km, 6.1 percent Col d'Eze. The finish line in Nice comes just 16km after the final passage over the climb's summit. If Julich does hold on - as now seems probable - his chances of completing the short walk to his Nice apartment with the first ProTour leader's jersey draped over his shoulders remain slim. Having completed a hat-trick of stage victories in the Tirreno-Adriatio today, Oscar Freire stands to earn 53 ProTour points to Julich's 50 if he can keep his leader's jersey until Tirreno ends on Tuesday.
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