A quick chat with Bjarne Riis

CSC's man with a plan

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in San Francisco

Bjarne Riis is one of the European peloton's most recognizable team directors. He has grown the CSC team into a major Pro Tour powerhouse that can place well at any race it enters, and is credited for developing some of the brightest young talent like Ivan Basso as well as re-igniting older ones like Bobby Julich. Cyclingnews sat down briefly with Riis along San Francisco's Embarcadero while he signed autographs with his CSC team.

Cyclingnews: What new riders are you most anticipating for next year?

Bjarne Riis: We will have some very good new riders -- Cancellara is a good one.

CN: Are there any types of races where you would like to see your team improve next season?

BR: We have been pretty good in all types of racing this year. Maybe we could improve in the classics. We wanted to prove we could be good where we wanted to and we proved that this year, all over.

CN: Do you foresee changing Basso's racing plans next year to focus more on winning the Tour de France?

BR: He is not a rider who wants to race only six races. He wants to be competitive all year. That's the way he wants it.

CN: What are your thoughts on the Pro Tour? What needs to be changed and what are some of the positive results so far?

BR: There are many good things about it, but too many teams were not ready. The changes were too quick. Even I pushed hard in the beginning for the quick changes but a lot of teams could not handle it. The UCI did not recognize this and made mistakes. If I was the UCI I would learn to take a step backwards. Maybe have only fourteen teams in the Pro Tour and have more World Cups. But it would be a hard decision.

The good thing about the Pro Tour is that teams are obligated to race more. However some teams should cut down on their national racing and remember their obligation to the Pro Tour races -- or make their programs bigger!

CN: Along those lines, what is your reaction to the new team limits for countries in the World Championships?

BR: We have the Olympics already where you can do that. It is bad for the European countries that have so many riders -- like Norway is only allowed one rider!

There there is the problem of less experienced riders crashing more often. Petacchi could be next to a guy and get crashed!

CN: What advice would you give the major U.S. teams to help them become more competitive at these major races?

BR: They should certainly race more in Europe. That's where it is happening. And then maybe there could be more UCI races here.

CN: What is Bobby Julich up to right now since he is not racing San Francisco?

BR: Julich is focusing on the time trial at the world championships. It's too bad about David [Zabriskie] because the U.S. could have had a good showing there with both. I might go help Bobby at the world championships.

With that, Bjarne had to head back to the autograph table and a line of fans snaking around the entire expo area.

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