“We need to win a classic,” Riis told Danish BT website. “Peter Sagan has a chance to win in all of them, and I’ll survive if he doesn’t.
The Danish team manager returned from a team building camp in Tanzania where he, his cyclists and the staff members climbed Mount Kilimanjaro over a six-day period. The camp allowed Sagan, and new members like Sports Director Sean Yates, to mix with some of the team’s regulars including Contador.
The Spanish climber counts six Grand Tour wins even with the ones ignored due to a doping suspension. His latest conquest came in September at Vuelta a España ahead of Sky’s Chris Froome. For 2015, his plan is to race and win the Giro and the Tour – a double feat not accomplished since Marco Pantani in 1998.
Contador already raced both the Giro and the Tour in 2011, when he said it was too much. He went to that year’s Tour over-cooked and said that he did not want to repeat such an effort again. The team’s thinking has changed, however.
“Alberto needs challenges to motivate him,” Riis said. “Of course, there is a risk associated with it, but I like the idea. We need riders who have the balls to dare to risk anything.
“Why should he not try it? If there is anyone who can do it, he can. If he didn’t think he could do it, he would have opposed the plan.”
Riis sold his team last year to Russian tycoon Oleg Tinkov and stepped down to manage Tinkovff’s cyclists, a role that he said he enjoys more. With Contador’s grand tour double planned, he has plenty on his plate. To get there, however, he must see Sagan through the spring classics.
Sagan raced with Liquigas/Cannondale over the last five years, won Ghent-Wevelgem and E3 Harelbeke, and placed second in Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders. In the summer, he also raced the Tour de France and won the green jersey the last three years in a row.
With Sagan, Riis again has a classics cyclist of the same calibre as he had with Fabian Cancellara through 2010. Sagan came from team Cannondale with Maciej Bodnar and brother Juraj Sagan, and will have several Tinkoff workhorses at his disposal. Behind in the team car, Riis will make the calls with the help of Yates.
Yates guided Bradley Wiggins to his Tour de France win in 2012. He left the team during its zero-tolerance interviews at the end of the 2012 season following Michael Barry’s doping admission during his time with team-mate Lance Armstrong. Yates cited personal reasons for his departure and said that he had nothing to do with doping.
“I would not take anyone into the team who I feel that I cannot trust. I am running a serious team,” Riis continued.
“I’ve got it setup, I always wanted, but it’s just that this time, there is someone to pay for it.”
More on Tinkoff-Saxo
Alberto Contador and Bjarne Riis visit London for a Saxo Bank sponsor event at Herne Hill velodrome
Footage of Russian WorldTour team Tinkoff-Saxo's adventurous team-building exercise on Mount Kilimanjaro
Sean Yates will join Tinkoff-Saxo as directeur sportif for the 2015 season, assisting Alberto Contador in the Grand Tours