Danish cycling legend Bjarne Riis and his business partner, Lars Seier Christensen, today (Thursday) unveiled plans to form a new WorldTour team for the 2017 season as part of a wide-ranging project relating to the sport.
Former Team Saxo-Tinkoff boss and 1996 Tour de France winner Riis has been out of the sport since exiting as team manager of Saxo-Tinkoff in March last year following a dispute with team owner Oleg Tinkov.
Christensen is the co-founder and former co-chief executive of Danish financial services group Saxo Bank, which formerly sponsored the team now known as Tinkoff Sport. Under the plan to create a Riis/Seier holding company, the WorldTour team would be part of an overarching strategy that would include other cycling-themed ventures such as stationary bikes, an athlete testing centre, academies, product development and a virtual reality training project.
Riis has conceded the launch date for a WorldTour team could be put back, adding to the Ekstrabladet.dk website: “We are currently working on to find out how a WorldTour team should be best created. There are several options. I feel ready to return to the sport. I have the desire and I have the motivation but it shouldn’t be at any price. It must be innovative and exciting and also interesting even commercially.
“A great team must be built up in the right way. With this concept and the background it is the right model to do it. We’ve talked with many different stakeholders but cannot comment on it today. We are in the midst of a series of negotiations, which should mean we can field a team that can join the sport at a high level. We can live with it starting in 2018. It’s important the foundations are good.”
Riis has a chequered past in the sport having admitted to doping in 2007, offering to return the yellow jersey he won for his Tour de France triumph. After a lengthy investigation by Anti-Doping Denmark, he also admitted last year that he failed to do enough to stop doping in the teams he had managed.
Riis had been heavily linked to the Bahrain Cycling Team project that was announced at the weekend by Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain. The prince, a keen cycling fan, announced the creation of the new team on social media platforms, with the intention of entering the sport at the highest level.
The Cyclingnews website said the prince is serious about creating a professional team for 2017 and is interested in signing leading Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali as one of the team's leaders.