Evanescent Riders Of The 90s: Bjarne Riis

Evanescent Riders Of The 90s: Bjarne Riis

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I know what you’re thinking. How can one label Bjarne Riis an Evanescent Rider? He was a champion, he won the Tour, and went on to become one of the leading Directors Sportif in cycling. Yeah, well, just because he hung around long enough to get the right program and then jagged a job as a mentoring guru doesn’t mean he never reached above and beyond his actual talent. He was a plodder, then a champion, then a plodder again. Maybe that’s harsh, as he is the first of our Evanescent Riders who actually won the Tour.

Pretty much, Bjarne was a good, solid rider, strong but never really considered complete enough to be a Tour winner. Sound familiar? A domestique at Castorama and Ariostea, where he started to push a bit higher in the Tour GC, going from 107th in ’91 to 5th in ’93, 14th in ’94 then 3rd in ’95.  His ’94 move to Gewiss was when things really started to look up for him (except in the hair department), coincidentally around the same time as Lance’s training advisor got involved with the Italian team. Suddenly riders like Berzin and Ugrumov were ‘coming from nowhere’ and it seems Bjarne received some shit-hot training tips too.

“Here’s my training advice; take this, this and two of these.”

“Thank you, doctor.”

“Oh, I’m not a doctor.”

There’s no real need to discect Bjarne’s palmares, just go straight to Le Tour ’96, where a shortened stage to Sestrieres saw him decimate the world’s best in a way-too-short-to-decimate-any-field stage of just 46km. A few days later at Hautacam, scene of Big Mig’s own race-winning exploits in previous years, Riis toyed with the Spaniard and the assembled throng of top-fuellers with a contempt that bordered on pure disrespect, such was his display of power and the ease with which he despatched his rivals one by one, or in bigger batches.

Of course, after the rise there must be a subsequent fall to cement qualification for Evanescence, and after starting Le Grande Bouclé in ’97 as race favourite and leader of Telekom, he returned to from whence he came, consistently losing time to not only the opposition juicers but to his own young upstart teammate Jan Ullrich. The sight of Riis Millarcoptering his TT bike into a ditch signalled the impending demise of his racing career. He wouldn’t show the same incredible form again, and after finishing the next two Tours 7th and 11th he retired at the end ’98.

Following the lead of many former Pros who can’t stay away from the scene, Riis became involved in management with CSC and then SaxoBank. Yet the ballsiest thing he’s ever done on or off the bike is admit that he was juiced to the eyeballs when he won the Tour. Despite this admission ‘Mr 60 percent’ still has his name etched in the history books as a Tour winner. Which proves that it’s ok to be evanescent just once.

The Riiscopter

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFzteK_y1b4[/youtube]

Playing on Hautacam

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Og76z4kGMQU[/youtube]

Slideshow:
Fullscreen:
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// Evanescent Riders // Nostalgia // Racing

  1. @brett

    What a timely post, given this article posted today.

  2. This photo of Bjarne Riis pervades that he is The Man with the Hammer. Like a phantom.

  3. i for one took some time warming up to Riis after he beat my man Big Mig in his record breaking attempt to win his 6th tour, plus Big Mig is just full of class.  However, the thing that struck me about Riis that won me over was watching him open his mouth and suck in more air than a vacuum-cleaner, as he bled out his eyes burying his rivals.  Plus it was evident to me as he came to form he was a skeleton, absolute evidence of a discipline far above most others…so I had to share respects.

    So, yes, he is an Evanescent Rider in my book too, good one Brett

    love the pic of him on Celeste BTW, and as a fellow Reparto Corse rider, it should be a Rule that all celeste matches, including the Team Kit…WTF is up with a team not matching their celeste??? Gees-Merckx 

  4. @Marcus

    Do you good people realise that since 1960 more Tours de France have been won by cyclists who at some stage in their careers tested positive or have since admitted doping compared with those winners who never tested positive.

    And that is with Lance’s 7 Tours still in the “innocent” column…

    Yes, which is why Riis wasn’t stripped of his title. You’d have to award the race to the guy who got 17th to get to one who hasn’t been nailed for the juice.

    A problem they will encounter if they decide to do something about Pharmy’s Tours once the case is closed, assuming that goes the way it seems it will.

  5. @Souleur

    Plus it was evident to me as he came to form he was a skeleton, absolute evidence of a discipline far above most others…so I had to share respects.

    I think we’ve chatted about this before; the super-skinny rider seems to just point the needly dangerously toward “unsustainable” – I mean, Merckx, Coppi, Bobet – those guys were skinny as hell, sure, but not like the concave stomach kinda skinny the riders are these days. 

    Granted, riding to work with my backpack on reminds me precisely why it sucks so much to carry extra pounds on the torso, but you need some meat on the bones during a race like the Tour, it would seem. Gotta get those fuel reserves from somewhere…

  6. @Flying Crowbar

    @brett

    What a timely post, given this article posted today.

    wow, tragic like hamlet.  perhaps it’s a danish thing…

  7. Hamlet – Son of Piglet – one of my faves…

  8. @Souleur

    However, the thing that struck me about Riis that won me over was watching him open his mouth and suck in more air than a vacuum-cleaner, as he bled out his eyes burying his rivals. 

    He did inhale a wasp like a regular whale shark, didn’t he? And the guy definitely had some serious cannons. Drug cannons, but cannons.

  9. @Souleur He’s wearing his Danish National Champion’s kit, the kit matched the Celeste fairly well IMO.

  10. @Oli

    Indeed. Don’t believe that kit is celeste at all, just blue. And, as a matter of point, that particular Bianchi would look good with a pile of dogshit riding it.

    Oh, wait, that’s what you posted.

    @Souleur

    Pirata, bandana, gloves, bibs, bike. Perfection.

  11. @Frank: indeed, the skeletons are to be admired, but they pay the price.  There was a Euskatel rider recenlty that one a single stage over a Mtn top finish ~5yrs ago, freakin bones man, he was a Basque rider and i will have to do my homework and get back, I agree.  I am envious of them.

    @Oli: thanks, didn’t recognize the stripes there, but perhaps they can don some celeste over the ends of the short sleeves or something??  Just styling here 20yrs later

    And the Pirata Rules!  Period.

  12. Roberto Laiseka; TdF winner stage 14 in 2001…wow that was a long time ago

  13. @Oli Whoever tidied up my mong post left out the word “Gewiss”.

  14. @Souleur

    Laiseka! There were a few candidates for EV Riders in Euskatel, Zubeldia, even Mayo!

  15. @Oli

    @Oli Whoever tidied up my mong post left out the word “Gewiss”.

    Like you really wonder who tidies that shit up? Really? Gewiss wasn’t in there anymore, must have gotten deleted when you dropped the picture in mid-sentence!

  16. I love the reminiscing of the Tours  of the past. It makes very little difference to me weather or not the champions of yesteryear doped. it was a level playing  field- pretty much everybody doped. in the 60’s and 70’s it was mostly speed and maybe some crude forms of steroids. As the 70’s gave way to the 80’s the dope got more sophisticated which led into the debacle of the 90’s with the Festina Affair and many rider expulsions as the testing ramped up. Enter the turn of the century and an era of new kickass undetectable dope…. that wasn’t exactly undetectable. Unbelievable results by lab rats that would stop at nothing in order to win. Did the riders have their own dope programs or were they team sponsored? Hell, I don’t kmow. Does it matter? Not really because just like baseball, football, track, soccer and probably even rugby, cricket and curling everyone involved knew what was going on. Again, dont care because that was the norm. going back in time to claim a result was fraudulent is rediculous and a complete waste of time and money. From everything we can tell, the sport is much cleaner now that ever but the dopers are always a step ahead of the testers. I just enjoy bike racing and leave the testing to the powers that be. Keep the Evanescence coming. Its a great exercise in the history of cycling.

  17. @frank Oh lolol. My bad.

  18. @Flying Crowbar

    @brett

    What a timely post, given this article posted today.

    Riis suffers from beating Big Mig in the fan’s eye. Thanks for this article. As in the first video, I wonder what was going through his mind…”what the hell, I am the defending champ, I have paid my dues, I have ridden for greats, and I am juiced to the gills! My upstart teammate is winning AND MY FUCKING BIKE IS SHIT….oh look how far I can throw it….”

    Mr 60 does not get the respect he deserves in my humble opinion (yes, I spelleded it out!). I love the old guard as much as any fan, but hell, the man was a disciplined master of training and was willing to do what it takes to win. He’s built some of the best teams in history, and now is surviving his lowest point as a DS. Watch Saxo-Tinkoff in the near future…

  19. @El Mateo +1!

    Curling’s dope = single malt scotch. It was my winter sport when as a young teen my parents ripped me out of hockey for slowly becoming a goon. It was intended to make me more of a gentleman. Needless to say, I was an intense young bastard that fleeted with curling greatness, but I could not curtail or supress my rage. I found football (north american) to play. Rage is all the rage on the gridiron.

    Steve Bauer had a great article a few years ago asking what hell would happen if the NHL had the balls to test the Stanley Cup champs right after the final game. Oh, that would be priceless.

  20. All the other major sports have turned a blind eye. Hockey, Baseball & American football drug testing is a joke, basketball players smoke weed like they are Rastafarians. DOn’t really know much about testing in the D1 Soccer leagues but it would seem to me that they share a common doping thread with track and cycling. Cycling has had the balls to meet the dope challenge head on- Their methods are are to be questioned but at least the sport is cleaning up as compared to others.  I like your doping method… kill the day’s pain with a nip of some single malt. Preferably something from The Highlands. Cheers!

  21. @El Mateo

    All the other major sports have turned a blind eye. Hockey, Baseball & American football drug testing is a joke, basketball players smoke weed like they are Rastafarians. DOn’t really know much about testing in the D1 Soccer leagues but it would seem to me that they share a common doping thread with track and cycling. Cycling has had the balls to meet the dope challenge head on- Their methods are are to be questioned but at least the sport is cleaning up as compared to others.  I like your doping method… kill the day’s pain with a nip of some single malt. Preferably something from The Highlands. Cheers!

    exactly right! +1

  22. Last week, I spoke to a guy in Italy who I met a year ago for the first time. We started chatting about doping back in the days and today. Suddenly he asked me “Do you know who first brought EPO to Italy?” He was talking about himself. And he was proud about it because back then it was “integratori” not doping. So I ask “when did it become doping?”. “1994”.

    On a different note: read Fignon’s book if you haven’t (Casto kit, EPO etc.).

  23. Giro di Lombardia or better Il Lombardia 2011

  24. @Pedale.Forchetta

    How did you get him to smile like that? We’re you waving a syringe in front of him?

  25. @Uli

    Last week, I spoke to a guy in Italy who I met a year ago for the first time. We started chatting about doping back in the days and today. Suddenly he asked me “Do you know who first brought EPO to Italy?” He was talking about himself. And he was proud about it because back then it was “integratori” not doping. So I ask “when did it become doping?”. “1994″.

    On a different note: read Fignon’s book if you haven’t (Casto kit, EPO etc.).

    Ominous history.

    Fignon’s  book sit’s right up the with the best.

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