Bjarne Riis back in elite cycling as team manager of NTT

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Bjarne Riis, the 1996 Tour de France champion who admitted to doping following his retirement from cycling, is back in the sport as team manager of NTT Pro Cycling on the World Tour.

It marks the return of Riis to top-level men’s cycling for the first time since he left his his role as team manager of Tinkoff-Saxo in 2015. He has since been trying to establish Danish-based teams in the lower tiers of cycling.

NTT Pro Cycling, the first team from Africa to compete at World Tour level, said Wednesday the Danish company that Riis co-owns, Virtu Cycling, has invested in one third of the shares of the operational company behind NTT Pro Cycling. Based in South Africa, it was previously known as Team Dimension Data and has been on the World Tour since 2016.

“I have, in reality, not been away from cycling,” Riis said at a news conference in Copenhagen. “During the time I have not been on a World Tour team, I have been observing what has happened out there.

“We’ll create one of the world’s best cycling teams.”

In 2007, Riis admitted to using the blood-booster EPO from 1993-98, including during his ’96 Tour victory. Riis wasn’t sanctioned because time limits had expired, but he said he no long considered himself a worthy winner of the Tour, the most prestigious race in cycling.

“I have committed errors in the past,” the 55-year-old Riis said. “But I am convinced that people who know me, know what I stand for and they know what I think.”

Douglas Ryder, founder and team principal of NTT Pro Cycling, said being able to call upon the “expertise and breadth of experience that Bjarne Riis will provide” is “another significant moment in the history of this team.”

The 2021 Tour is scheduled to depart from Copenhagen, with the first three stages held in the city and elsewhere in Riis’ native Denmark.

“It is a dream come true,” Riis said. “I see it as the ultimate bonus when the team lines up at the start of the Tour de France in 2021 in Copenhagen.”

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.