Saiz slams Bruyneel and Riis

Speaking to procycling on Sunday, Manolo Saiz put rival managers Johan Bruyneel and Bjarne Riis firm

Speaking to procycling on Sunday, Manolo Saiz put rival managers Johan Bruyneel and Bjarne Riis firm
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Liberty Seguros boss Manolo Saiz this morning issued a stern rebuke to two of professional cycling's most highly-rated young directeur sportifs, Johan Bruyneel and Bjarne Riis. Reacting to Buyneel's suggestion on Saturday that Jos 'the Ace' Azevedo was not so much a compromise as a superior alternative to Roberto Heras as Lance Armstrong's mountain domestique, Saiz accused the US Postal supremo of being "disrespectful". Riis was on the end of an even more severe dressing down. To the Dane's argument that his CSC outfits was one of the few teams to enter the Tour with adequate preparation, Saiz scoffed that "talk is cheap when things are going well". "I find it disrespectful to talk about Heras, a rider who helped Armstrong to win three Tours de France, in those terms," said Saiz, who managed Bruyneel in his riding days at ONCE. "It is also poppycock: Azevedo rides three kilometres a day, he finishes off the job of the other US Postal riders on the climbs. Talk to me about George Hincapie or Viatcheslav Ekimov. That I can take. They ride all day on the flat then lead Lance up the climbs, too. They are real domestiques. Or talk to me about Armstrong: he is someone I have real respect for." Asked whether Azevedo's impact at US Postal since leaving ONCE had been a surprise, Saiz answered: "No - he did exactly the same for us and finished sixth in the Tour de France in the process. "Of Riis, I would say that it's easy to talk when things are going well," Saiz continued. "If Ivan Basso loses 20 minutes tomorrow, then we will see if Riis is still a genius. How long has he been a directeur sportif? If I want advice on managing a team I'm happy to listen to someone like Giancarlo Ferretti, who has been doing the job for 20-odd years. Ferretti knows that miracles don't happen overnight. All it takes is a fall or an injury to one of your riders to bring you down a few pegs, " Saiz was only rendered speechless when asked to explain Roberto Heras' wretched performance in the Pyrenees on Friday and Saturday. The reigning Vuelta a Espa¤a champion began today's 14th stage from Carcassone to Nmes in 34th position on general classification, almost half-an-hour adrift of old boss Armstrong. "I have no answers," Saiz admitted. "Roberto doesn't have any physical problems that we know of. His preparation was almost the same as the one which took Joseba Beloki onto the podium of the Tour in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The only difference was that Roberto had one more week to rest in June. Now it's my job to keep my team's morale up until the end of the Tour."
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