Riis defends his decision to punish Schleck and O’Grady

Saxo Bank manager looking forward to 2011 Tour battle

Bjarne Riis has defended his decision to send Andy Schleck and Stuart O’Grady home from the Vuelta and refuting that he was too severe.

Riis left the Vuelta on Wednesday after meeting with new signing Alberto Contador, who will replace Andy Schleck as team leader at Saxo Bank in 2011. The Danish team manager was not happy with O’Grady’s version of events reported in the Sydney Morning Herald but insists that he and the Schlecks are seperating on good terms.

”I can understand that he (O'Grady) is disappointed. But he must be disappointed with himself," Riis told Danish television channel TV 2. ”There is not much to say. If he wants to lie to people, then he should just do it. But I do not think he should do it to me.”

”The fact is that we know what occurred. It is clear that if they had just one beer, they wouldn’t be thrown out but we have rules and they must be respected. And they didn’t respect them.”

O’Grady has revealed he will not ride for the Saxo Bank team again as he focuses on the world championships, but Andy Schleck announced via Twitter than he will target the Giro dell’ Emilia, the GP Begelli, Gran Piemonte and the Tour of Lombardy in October.

French newspaper L’Equipe revealed that Schleck sent Riis an apology in a text message. Riis admits he has good memories of the time he spent with Andy and Fränk Schleck at the team, but is looking forward to 2011 when he will have Alberto Contador in his squad.

“I’m proud that Alberto is joining us. And I don’t think I need to be disappointed about Andy and Frank’s decision. I’ve got some good memories and we worked well together. They’ve taken one road and I’m taking another. That’s life, that’s cycling. I’m starting a new page,” Riis told L’Equipe.

“When the Schlecks told me they were going to leave Saxo Bank, I reacted immediately. It’s my job to do so. When I knew Alberto Contador could be on the market, I knew I had to act quickly. Only Alberto could replace Andy in my team.”

Riis is expecting a great rivalry at the 2011 Tour de France. “Andy knows Alberto pretty well and Alberto knows how to beat Andy. That should mean we have a beautiful Tour next year and hopefully the result will be the same…” he said, reportedly cracking a rare smile after several days of tension in the team.

Riis has secured his team leader for the Tour de France but admitted that he is still trying to convince Fabian Cancellara to stay with Saxo Bank for 2011 and lead the classics team.

“We’ve talked and we’re still talking. For the moment he’s staying. He’s still got a contract for another year…”

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