Bjarne Riis rails on a spoiled younger generation, lauds the efforts of Michael Morkov
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bjarne Riis rails on a spoiled younger generation, lauds the efforts of Michael Morkov

by Jered Gruber at 12:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Saxo Bank/SunGard manager takes a hard look at the sport's budding talents

Bjarne Riis has never been far from the public eye over the transfer and winter seasons. His signing of Alberto Contador, his subsequent defense of his star rider, and the recent release of his new autobiography, Riis, have ensured that the Danish owner and manager of the Saxo Bank/SunGard team is always in the news.

Just as it seemed things might quiet down from the former Tour de France winner, Riis found new reason to speak his mind: the plight of the young generation of riders.

Speaking with Ekstra Bladet, Riis complained about what he has seen from the new generation of riders.

"You can have physical talent and talent on a bike, but unless you have the will, you cannot use it for anything...Today, there are many young people who are spoiled before they actually perform. Many young people want everything before they actually do anything. That's a huge mistake."

As with any tale of this sort, the storyteller must hearken back to the days of yore, in this case, Riis's early days. Riis recalls a time when he ate spaghetti and ketchup, lived in a cheap apartment in Luxembourg, and trained 4-7 hours a day in hopes of making it big as a bike racer. Riis calls it taking responsibility in this situation - recognizing your talent and then hunkering down and putting in the work to realize that talent.

"I would have liked to have had a new apartment, but I could not afford it. I do not know whether this is due to childhood upbringing, but for some it is hard to make the final step, to take responsibility."

For Riis, the path to greatness is a simple one, yet fraught with the perils of a lot of hard work: "If I was a young guy today and knew I had a possible great future ahead of my, then I'd invest. I would have the right diet, make sure to find someone to guide me with my training, and settle in a place where there would be someone who could motorpace me - all the things you can do to optimally improve yourself."

Michael Morkov: Doing It Right
One rider that seems to fit the bill as a young rider who is doing things the correct way is one of Riis's Danish proteges, Michael Morkov.

"Michael is a rock solid, loyal, and strong rider, who has an eye for the importance of standing together as a team, and I am really pleased to extend our cooperation with him," said the former Amstel Gold winner to feltet.dk.

Morkov enjoyed a solid year in 2010 highlighted by a fourth place finish at the Tour du Limousin, which included a very difficult 45 kilometer time trial. The track champion has made the commitment to the road just as his track partner, Alex Rasmussen, has as well. Rasmussen left for HTC-Columbia at the end of the season and was recently described by director sportif, Brian Holm, as one of the most amazing talents he had ever seen. Riis doesn't quite laud Morkov to that extent, but he does praise his hard working 25 year old all-around.

"He is deeply serious, enjoyable to work with, and a leadership role is natural for him. I am convinced that he is a future leader on this team."

Morkov for his part is pleased to receive the praise of a manager who can be so tight lipped when it comes to positive overtures. This year's 3rd place finisher in the Danish National Championships time trial is happy with the times that he has received leadership so far, and is looking forward to his leadership roles in the future.

"The times I've had leadership so far, I've had success, and then I dare to do it again. Everyone knows I take my sport very seriously, and people respect that. Therefore, they also respect the decisions I make."

In 2011, Morkov will get the chance to shine with a full schedule of the year's biggest races: Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix will highlight his spring. After that, he'll take a break, before taking on another string of high quality races: the Tour of California, the Tour de Suisse, and with those two, it looks more than likely that Morkov is at least on the long list for Riis's Tour de France team.

It will be a big leap forward for Morkov, who finished his first ever Grand Tour earlier this year with the Giro in May.

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