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Bjarne Riis: Bearing the burden of truth

Riis has a checkered past with Le Tour

Riis has a checkered past with Le Tour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

A lot has happened since Bjarne Riis' 1996 Tour de France victory. More than a decade after that now-tarnished win, the attention it has bestowed upon this private man is still a burden. Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins spoke with Riis about his struggle with the spotlight, its effects on his public portrait and his personal life, and those who doubt his credibility.

At his height of fame, Bjarne Riis was hailed as Denmark's sports figure of the century. At his lowest, he was reviled as a confessed doper who cheated to achieve his greatest victory. Now, he is regarded as one of the strongest team managers in the sport and he leads his riders with a fatherly mix of discipline and encouragement.

Riis credits his career successes to two influential men in his life: his father, Preben, who passed away less than a year ago, and his mentor, Laurent Fignon.

Riis' father recognised his son's undeniable talent for cycling at an early age, and the two developed a close bond through the sport. "My father followed me everywhere I went," says Riis, who now resides in Lugano, Switzerland, with his partner Anne-Dorthe and five children - Jesper (19), Thomas (16), Christian (six), Mattias (five) and Andreas (three). None are cyclists... yet.

"My father was a big part of my life, especially when I was a kid. I don't know how he knew about training, but he did," explains Riis. "He pushed me, no doubt about it. But I liked to be pushed. There's a lot of talk about dads pushing their kids to be better, too early, because of their own ego. I don't care about that, I liked it."

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.