Bjarne Riis has revealed that he was negotiating with Alberto Contador during this year’s Tour de France, while the Spaniard was riding a neck-and-neck battle against Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck for the overall title. “It was strange,” Riis admitted in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
“I explained to everyone, Andy, Fränk, Alberto, look, at the Tour I'm one hundred percent with Andy,” Riis said. “I have a job and give it my all, and so I demand of my riders, even those who would change their teams next year, to give one hundred percent to the team until the end.”
When the Schlecks told him they were leaving, he “wondered who would replace them, and immediately thought of Alberto, who is the best.” Riis spoke to Contador before the Tour and met with his brother/manager Fran to review the contract during the Tour.
Riis compared the characters of Andy Schleck and Contador. “In cycling there is room for everyone and we cannot ask that all cyclists have the same mentality, the same lifestyle. We respect them all."
“Andy is not Contador, Contador is not Andy. They are two different people and two fantastic people,” Riis said. “Maybe Alberto is a bit more serious and Andy a little younger, a little more of a free spirit, who still has a lot to learn.”
Riis added: “This doesn't mean it is easier with Alberto. He has other characteristics. I have to know the person, to help them realise they need me to become better. It is always the same game, and a job I will start this winter with Alberto.”
Finally, he commented on whether Fabian Cancellara would be around to help Contador in the Tour next year. “I don't know. I don't know. But there will be a good team around Alberto, it's not a problem.”