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.”

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under


ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Jay Vine defended his overnight lead to win the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2023 World Tour.

Simon Yates of Britain won the final stage and moved up from third to second place on overall standings. Vine came in second on the stage to secure the biggest win of his career in a stage race.

The UAE Team Emirates rider took the overall tour lead when he finished second in Stage 2 and third in Stage 3. He came into the final stage with a 15-second lead on general classification.

The 70-mile stage involved four laps of a 15.5 mile-circuit through the Adelaide Hills before finishing just beyond the summit of Mount Lofty.

Yates led the crucial attack on the ascent less than 1.2 miles from the finish, but Vine jumped onto his wheel and Australian Ben O’Connor also joined in.

O’Connor led out close to the finish line, Vine briefly passed him but Yates came over the top to claim the stage win. Vine retained his overall advantage and claimed the title in his debut appearance in the Tour Down Under.

The 27-year-old made his name in e-Sports before being signed by the UAE team after winning the academy program on the Zwift online platform. He won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana last year and the Australian Time Trial title.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here and wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we drove that was first class. My guys were incredible.”

The final stage featured a breakaway of 13 riders but Vine’s UAE teammates led the chase by the peloton and put their rider in a position to contest the win.

Yates again rode an aggressive race but had to be happy with the stage win.

“We came Down Under with a lot of ambition. We put a lot into it and we didn’t come away with the overall but we can walk away pretty happy,” Yates said. “Obviously Jay Vine is a massive talent and the crowd will be happy with a local winner.”

France’s Coquard wins Tour Down Under Stage 4; Vine leads


ADELAIDE, Australia — French cyclist Bryan Coquard won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under for his first-ever World Tour win, while Australia’s Jay Vine retained the overall tour lead by 15 seconds with one stage remaining.

Coquard is a lightweight sprinter who has had 49 wins in a decade-long career but had never won on the World Tour until he cleared out near the finish to claim the 82-mile stage by a margin of about just over 100 feet.

Vine was among the leading group that shared Coquard’s winning time and who retained his lead on general classification over Britain’s Simon Yates and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus. The race concludes with Stage 5, which ends atop 2,329-foot Mount Lofty.

“It’s a long time that I’ve waited for this win, 10 years,” said Coquard, who rides for the French Cofidis team. “I never really expected and I’m very happy and relieved with this win.”

While the stage was flat and suited sprinters, it had its challenges. Cross-winds and occasional gradients made the stage difficult and confounded some riders.

After an early breakaway by Jonas Rutsch and former tour winner Daryl Impey of South Africa, the peloton broke into two groups with Vine and other tour leaders among the leading group.

The leading group stayed together around the last, sharp bend towards the finish and Coquard bided his time until his late sprint left other riders flat-footed.

“It was pretty stressful,” Vine said. “There was one point there, I thought we were going to have an easy day and I was happy, smiling, waving to families on the side of the road.

“Then, 45 kilometers in it was on and it was on until the end so it was a very hard day. There was a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.”