Somehow, someway, Bjarne Riis always ends up on top with the last hardy-har-har.
Two big news items caught our interest today: the actual or near demise of the Geox-TMC squad over a lack of sponsor funding and a story quoting Alberto Contador on Riis hunting for reinforcements.
Riis is a brilliant team manager, tactician and ballroom dancer and nobody should doubt his survival skills by now.
When Classics superstar and world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara and the Brothers Schleck left Riis high and dry and without riders, the wily Dane still pulled a rabbit out of a hat. He simply turned around and brought in the best stage racer in the world, Alberto Contador.
With Cancellara gone, Riis beat the bushes hard and came up with an intriguing long-shot, a rider with talent but a career that was nose-diving fast — Nick Nuyens. The Belgian put in a stunning ride and delivered the big surprise: beating Cancellara in the Tour of Flanders. Revenge was never so sweet and Riis almost went certifiably nuts in the team car.
Even further back in time, let’s not forget when Gerard Vroomen suddenly decided to take his Cervelo bikes and split from Riis. Carlos Sastre also took off for the Cervelo team — and was basically never heard from again until he retired. Meanwhile Riis is still here and his Saxo squad won the Giro.
Shit happens to Riis just like everyone else who plays in the big wood chipper. He doesn’t get angry or vindictive or weepy — he just downs a few hard, fast shots of vodka, puts on some Danish death metal like Corpus Mortale and runs out into the snow and throws himself in a frozen lake. Then he gets back to work with his usual calm, fiendish attention to big picture and detail.
This year Saxo Bank has been very quiet on the transfer scene, no big signings, not even rumors of potential ones. But Contador admitted after the 2011 Tour de France that his team wasn’t as strong as he’d like. Sadly for Saxo Bank, the door was closing and everybody had taken their seats.
Then Geox, waiting until the last possible moment, pulls the financial plug on their team. A move so lacking in class and so inconsiderate to riders that this company should be barred from the sport forever.
The UCI has announced the Geox riders are free to go elsewhere and look at the goodie bag that just dropped into Riis’ lap: Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo. Another Spanish Climber to strengthen Contador in the Alps and Pyrenees and — should CAS ban Contador from racing for a year or two — a fall-back guy to contend in the Giro or Vuelta.
Twisted Spoke is thinking that Riis is making some serious phone calls right about now. He might just pull another rabbit out of the hat.