By Katharina Schulz
Following up on our earlier report, in which Bjarne Riis, owner and manager of Team CSC, looked toward Carlos Sastre and Fränk Schleck as leaders in 2007, Riis reflected on former top star Ivan Basso's departure and the future of the squad.
Even though no doping charges were raised in Italy against the rider, Team CSC and Basso decided to go separate ways. Riis was not ready to go into the details of his decision to part company with Basso, but he presented his view of the situation. "Whichever way you look at this matter, I'm losing. I'm losing. I have lost credibility, I have received a good thrashing, I have put my whole team at risk, and I have lost the world's best rider," he told Danish newspaper B.T.
"When he was cleared, I knew what I had to do," said Riis. "In my eyes, the affair in Spain is far from over, even if they say so. We don't know what's going to happen, even though I'm afraid the whole thing will come to nothing. That the whole thing will never really come to a close."
For Riis, there were personal reasons for his decision, too. "I steal so much time from my family already. I couldn't ask them to do it. They're the most important thing in my life. I don't spend enough time with them as it is, and if Ivan Basso should have stayed, it would have taken up time, time which I would have needed to steal from my family. And I have to say stop at some point."
The thought that Ivan Basso, despite ongoing doping allegations, might be racing for a different team next season is difficult for Riis to accept. "Now that this season's ProTour is coming to its close, I'm asking for more team spirit in cycling. But I simply have to realize that it doesn't exist. Because everyone only thinks of themselves," said Riis.
Looking forward, Riis said, "I can only say that I've sent a clear signal to both my environment and to the world of cycling. I feel that this my responsibility, and I'm doing this my own way. Others have to do it their way."
Riis has a strong wish to re-install his team's credibility and that of cycling as a whole. He is therefore planning a large-scale anti-doping program for the team together with the Danish expert Rasmus Damsgaard, even if the intensified search for doping cases on his own team should result in fewer victories for his team. He is ready to leave cycling if he is wrong. "The cleaner cycling becomes, they better my team becomes. That is my spark."