Thomas Riis: Becoming a rider was my idea not my dad's

Son of former Tinkoff-Saxo manager says father Bjarne is undecided on future

Taking part in the Tour des Fjords with the Tre For-Blue Water continental team from Denmark, 22 year old Thomas Nybo Riis told Cyclingnews that his father Bjarne remains undetermined about his future, after he split up with the owner of his former Tinkoff-Saxo team Oleg Tinkov.

As he lined up in Bergen to race in support of the Kragh Andersen brothers Asbjørn and Søren, who seem to represent part of the future of Danish cycling, Riis junior found it “pretty cool” to ride alongside Fabian Cancellara who made most of his fame when he raced for CSC and Saxo Bank. “He’s one of the biggest guys in our sport,” he said. “I don’t know if he recognized me. As a teenager, I’ve followed my dad a lot of races, including in the team car at the Tour de France.”

“To become a cyclist was my project, not my dad’s,” Riis explained. “He didn’t push me to cycle. He advises me once in a while, but he isn’t my coach. We’re similar in a lot of aspects. I’ve learnt a lot from him. He’s enthusiastic about me racing but he also knows my situation. I started cycling pretty late, at the age of 19, and I had mononucleosis during the winter 2010-2011. I’ve been struggling for three years to get over that.

“Last year was my first real season but my health wasn’t stable yet, so I didn’t perform well. Now I want to see how I feel on a long period rather than focusing on the results. Results will come, sooner or later. My goal is to become a pro. I think I can achieve that if I continue my steady development. Team work gives me confidence. I’m yet to figuring out what I’m good at. I like hard races with a lot of small climbs.”

Born in Luxemburg, educated in Silkeborg, Denmark, where his mother Mette lives, Riis seems to be interested in cycling history since he regularly posts on his twitter account pictures of champions (Tony Rominger, Jesper Skibby, Luc Leblanc, Erik Zabel…) from the controversial 90s when his dad was racing. “The esthetic of cycling is quite fascinating, more than the history,” he said. “It plays a major role in our sport. Personalities shine through cycling. Cancellara’s personality is very different from [Alberto] Contador’s. In each element, they’re unique.”

On May 11, he also tweeted: “can’t figure out whether tinkoff-saxo are afraid of someone in front of the peloton, or some guy sitting behind the peloton.” He didn’t deny that it was a reference to Tinkov but the separation agreement prevents Bjarne Riis from expressing his feelings with regards to his previous employer, subsequently his son is understandably not supposed to speak out either.

“Dad seems to be happy at the moment”, a very relaxed Riis commented. “He’s a bit relieved. It’s also interesting for him to re-start something from scratch. Obviously, someone like him has many options for his future but most importantly is that he feels what he really wants to do. He doesn’t know yet.”

According to rumours, Riis might set up a new team with Saxo Bank, the company his elder son Jesper works for but for now, there’s only one Riis involved in cycling and that’s Thomas as a rider at the Tour des Fjords.

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