Tinkoff-Saxo confirms Riis is sidelined, but questions remain as to the reason

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The Tinkoff-Saxo team of Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan has confirmed reports that Bjarne Riis has been sidelined from his position as general manager of the squad, but has moved to dismiss some of the reasons suggested for his absence from Milan-San Remo.

The Russian squad, which was previously owned by Riis prior to its purchase by Oleg Tinkov in December 2013, issued a statement Tuesday.

“Following the rumors and speculations published by many Danish media first and then by international cycling media later last night, Tinkoff Saxo would like to clarify that Bjarne Riis is not being actively involved in the team’s activities since last Sunday,” it stated.

“However, he was not suspended of his active role because of lack of results nor for financial issues.”

This communication provides some clarification about speculation that the team’s lack of big results this year could be a factor. However it also leaves other questions unanswered, including whether Riis’ absence from the team is connected to the pending publication of the Anti Doping Denmark (ADD) report into cycling.

There are also suggestions that Tinkov and Riis may have had a falling out recently, but this too is not commented on.

According to the website CyclingPro.net, the two had an argument last Friday, two days before Milan-San Remo, and this led to Riis’ absence from the race.

It also suggests that dropping the Dane spares Tinkov the estimated one million Euro salary paid to Riis each year.

In the absence of clarification from the team, some degree of speculation will continue.

In its statement, Tinkoff-Saxo said that it was looking forwards.

“The team management has full confidence in the technical and performance team, in all the riders and staff members and is currently working to establish the best way forward in the racing season,” it stated.

“No decisions have been taken and any formal and final decision on any team member – if taken – shall be communicated at the appropriate time. Until then there will be no further comments on this matter.”

Riis is a former pro rider and the winner of the 1996 Tour de France. He admitted doping during his career and, after he became the owner of the CSC/Saxo Bank squad, was accused by former riders such as Tyler Hamilton of tolerating or facilitating doping use by them.

The ADD report is expected to be published shortly, although that body declined to give an estimated date when contacted by CyclingTips last week.

Meanwhile the Danish Professional Cyclists’ Club has issued its own statement on the matter. Riis is a member of the DPCC.

“What has been informed to the DPCC has now reached to the press,” it stated. “Namely that Bjarne Riis has been suspended by Oleg Tinkov. We call for [people] not to draw hasty conclusions based on newspaper articles, and we are sure that the matter is much more complex than is currently stated. And we definitely do not agree that Bjarne, as it is written, is humiliated.

“At this time, we will confine ourselves to express our support for Bjarne, and for the team’s riders, which we know are happy working with him.”

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