Bjarne Riis has admittited that losing so many riders and personnel to Leopard Trek was one of the most difficult moments of his career. However, the Saxo Bank-SunGard chief concedes that such a separation is part of the sport.”
Writing in the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, he said that the question of how the loss of Andy and Fränk Schleck and Fabian Cancellara, amongst others, affected him “is natural enough, because so many of my employees decided to join the newly established team - six of the nine riders on their Tour team were riding for my team last year. And the answer is probably just as naturally. My answer is yes. It was extremely hard, and worse than anything I have experienced before in my professional career."
He said he felt hurt by their departure and he still does. “But that's not the point here. When I look back at last year's event, I see it as an extreme example of how the world of cycling basically works: that separations are part of the sport.”
Riis claims his emotional reaction reflects his management style. “You can be the boss the old fashioned way where you always keep people out of your life and never get involved with them personally, like my old boss at Team Telekom, Walter Goodefroot. Or you can - as I try - embrace people with open arms and try to get close to them,” he said.