Report: MTN-Qhubeka and Trek turn down Riis’ sponsorship offer

Danish newspaper BT has reported that the MTN-Qhubeka and Trek Factory Racing team have both turned down an offer of sponsorship and management involvement from Bjarne Riis and Saxo Bank for 2016.

The Danish newspaper claims that Riis is actively working to make a return to professional cycling in 2016 after leaving the Tinkoff-Saxo Bank team following a falling out with owner Oleg Tinkov. Riis has a special relationship with Saxo Bank CEO Lars Seier Christensen, with the investment bank apparently ready to back Riis’ return and sponsor a team. However Riis' reputation seems to have severely limited his options for the future, with both MTN-Qhubeka and Trek Factory Racing opting against considering any offer from Riis and Saxo Bank.

"There has not been any negotiations on our part, but it is true that Bjarne Riis has inquired about the possibilities," BT reported MTN-Qhubeka manager Brian Smith as saying.

According to BT, the Trek Factory Racing team also opted not to open talks with Riis.

It seems Riis is against creating a new team from scratch due to time constrictions with UCI registration and knowing that any Saxo Bank sponsorship would not be enough to secure a place in the WorldTour or Grand Tour wild card invitations. In early July, Cyclingnews reported that Riis had talks with the owners and managers of the Cult Energy team, and the Danish-Based Professional Continental team has announced it will reveal its plans for the future on August 20.

Riis is considered one of the leading team managers in professional cycling but his own doping during his career and that of some of his leading riders appears to finally caught up with him, leaving his name toxic in the eyes of many sponsors and team owners.

Riis admitted to doping during his career in 2007 and symbolically offered to give back the Tour de France yellow jersey he won in 1996. He has always denied that he knew of doping during his time as a team manager at Team CSC despite direct allegations from former riders Tyler Hamilton, Jörg Jaksche and Michael Rasmussen. However the Anti-Doping Denmark investigation revealed that Riis did admit to knowing that Hamilton was working with Dr. Fuentes for blood doping and that he did not act to stop it. Riis also confessed to blood doping during his own career – something he had never revealed previously.

“For us it has not been possible to initiate a collaboration with Bjarne Riis. Our new sponsor has values that are not consistent with his history; Riis has previously doped. It was emphasized very clearly that it would not be feasible, and it was solely because of Riis,” BT report Smith as saying.

Cyclingnews contacted Riis and representatives from the MTN-Qhubeka and Trek Factory Racing but obtained no replies to phone calls and messages.

Riis also refused to comment to the TV2 television channel in Denmark. He worked as a commentator during several stages of the Tour de France for the channel and claimed early in the race that he was still considering his options.

"Right now I use the time to find out what I want to do," TV2 reported him as saying. "Whether there should be room for me in cycling, it's definitely not something I decide alone."

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