Having a strong will “is the greatest talent you can have,” according to Bjarne Riis, and it is exactly what is missing in so many young riders today, he said.
"You can have just as much physical talent and talent on a bike, but unless you have the will, you cannot use it for anything,” he told Ekstra Bladet.
“Today, we see many young people who are spoiled so rotten that they must be spoiled before they will be required to do something. Many young people want to have that before they do anything. And that is a serious mistake.”
Riis compares that with his beginnings in cycling, living in old apartment in Luxembourg, eating spaghetti and ketchup, and training every day from four to seven hours.
“I would have liked to live in a new apartment, but I couldn't afford it. I don't know whether this is due to childhood or upbringing, but for some it is hard to take the final step, take responsibility. Sometimes I wish that young people would do so.”
Riis did not name names or seem to be referring to any rider in particular, but emphasized that young riders should take advantage of the experience of the veteran riders and of the resources which clubs or teams can provide.
“If I was a young guy today and knew I had a possible great future ahead of me, then I'd invest. I would get the right diet, make sure to find someone who can put a training program, settle myself in a place where there is someone who can ride the motorcycle to pace me. All the things that make you improve yourself optimally.”
There is a cost for hard training, and many young riders seem unwilling to pay it, Riis noted. “They would rather have a cool car, a nice stereo or an expensive vacation, and I think that is unfortunate.”