Riis near collapse after a spring full of bad news

Contador's suspension, licence problem and search for sponsors nearly too much

Bjarne Riis struggled with depression and was on the verge of a collapse this spring. The combination of losing Alberto Contador to a doping-related suspension, the potential loss of his WorldTour licence for Team Saxo Bank and the need to find new sponsors was nearly too much for him, he has said.

“I was totally down and close to a complete collapse,” he said last week in an interview with the Danish broadcaster TV2 last week, together with his wife Anne Dorthe Tanderup.

“I spent the whole day lying in my bed with drawn curtains, because it was impossible to grasp,” he said. “I could not see an end to it. If they take our license, the entire life's work I've done ... it falls apart.”

He informed the other members of his management team. “He told us at a meeting: I need you to take a little over,” sports director Philippe Mauduit told the Ritzau news agency. The riders were not told as “they should only focus on the sport".

“My job is to make sure that the boys are physically and mentally on top, and that they don't hear too many things around them. I will make a bubble around them.”

Riis hid it well, Mauduit said. “He can tell you better than I how depressed he was, but I do not think that anyone outside could see it. I am almost certain that he had not told us sports directors that we would not have known it.”

Riis recovered and has retained his licence and re-signed Contador to ride for the team after his ban ends. In addition he announced a new name co-sponsor shortly before the Tour de France started.

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