WorldTour “system failure” means Bjarne Riis won’t name Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank signings
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Monday, August 13, 2012

WorldTour “system failure” means Bjarne Riis won’t name Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank signings

by Ben Atkins at 11:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Current teams could penalise riders, cut racing schedules, and deny them valuable ranking points

bjarne riisBjarne Riis has made several signings for Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, according to, but the Danish former Tour winner is refusing to name names. The reason for this, he says, is that those riders’ current teams might penalise them, and restrict the remainder of their racing season so that they are unable to win valuable points towards the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Tour.

The fear is that a team will actively prevent its rider from scoring any points this season, since it knows that they would benefit a rival team next year. The most extreme example of this so far has been the case of Jakob Fuglsang, who expressed his intention back in June to leave the embattled RadioShack-Nissan team at the end of the year; team boss Johan Bruyneel promptly informed the Danish rider that he would not be riding any WorldTour races for the rest of the season.

The result of this means that a normally in-demand rider like Fuglsang finds his market value is considerably reduced. While he would be almost certain to score points for his team next year, the fact that he brings none with him means that many teams will not want him, or pay him what he feels he is worth.

The situation also occurred last season, when Garmin-Cervélo manager Jonathan Vaughters refused to take then World champion Thor Hushovd to the Vuelta a España after the Norwegian had announced his move to BMC Racing. While it did not affect Hushovd’s market value - since his contract was already signed - it meant that he was not able to prepare for the defence of his rainbow jersey in the way that he wanted.

“I think that the system fails,” said Riis. “When you have to tell riders that they cannot ride a race because they’re changing teams and taking the points with them, then there is something wrong with the system.

“There is something terribly wrong with the scoring system, and it needs to be looked at.”

Riis’ problem is particularly acute since - after the retrospective suspension of Alberto Contador - Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank lost virtually all of its 2011 points, and has struggled to score in 2012. Contador has returned to racing, having finished fourth in last week’s Eneco Tour, and is a big favourite for the Vuelta a España, which starts on Saturday.

Regardless of these results however, as current UCI regulations stand, the Spanish rider will not score points for another two years; although this is something Riis has hinted that he may appeal against.

Ironically, Fuglsang has been linked with a return to Riis’ team, where he had spent his whole professional career before following Andy and Fränk Schleck to Leopard Trek last year. Since he will bring no points with him however, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank will also have to look elsewhere.

Several other riders have been rumoured to be linked to a move to Riis’ team, including Vasil Kiryienka of Movistar, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke of Endura Racing, and Roman Kreuziger of Astana. The latter has suffered a similar fate to Fuglsang however as, since he announced his intention to quit the Kazakh team, he has not been named in the rosters for either the Clasica San Sebastian, or Vuelta a España.

This explains Riis’ reluctance to name his new recruits - with Nicolas Roche and Marko Kump the only names confirmed to date, and that was only because of reports in the media - since the system, as it stands, could threaten his team’s application for next year’s WorldTour.

There is a possible solution to the problem, which has been suggested by a number of team managers, as Riis explained.

“It would be far simpler, if 50 percent of the riders' points went to the team, and 50 percent went to the rider,” he said.

Until that time however, the Dane will have to keep his new riders identities a secret, to avoid penalising his 2013 prospects.

“I don’t think that the system works,” he concluded. “But as long as the UCI does this, we have no alternative.

“I do not think UCI knows how to solve the problem; we have asked to have it changed several times but nothing happens.”


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