Bjarne Riis, the only rider from Denmark to have won the Tour de France, was not invited to the festivities in Copenhagen, being left off the list of dignitaries invited to participate in the Grand Départ on Friday by ASO organisers.
“Of course, I’m sorry not to be there. I had hoped for that,” Riis said to TV 2 Sport. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. That’s life. That’s all I have to say about it.”
As the Danish Touring Championships, he stood at the final Tour de France podium in Paris in 1996 and, after retirement, with Team CSC / Saxo Bank to the Tour victory in 2008 with Carlos Sastre, and in 2010 with Alberto Contador, although Andy Schleck’s title was later stripped due to a positive doping.
Also speaking to TV 2 Sport, Schleck said he felt Riis should have been invited. “A couple of weeks ago with Bjarne in Denmark, and Bjarne is a hero. We walked through the streets and everyone knows him.
“He is not the only person who runs around with a past that isn’t super good, but he won the Tour, and cycling in Denmark wouldn’t be where it is today without him.”
While ASO typically invites Tour de France champions to the race, this year is not the first time Riis has been ignored. His relationship with ASO soured when, in 2007, he admitted to using EPO, growth hormone and cortisone to achieve his 1996 Tour de France title.
He offered to give back the jersey, stating, “My yellow jersey is in a box in my garage at home. You can come and collect it. What matters to me are my memories.”
Following that confession, the Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme announced that ASO had erased Riis’ name from its list of past winners in the annual road book, even though the UCI never officially disqualified Riis because he confessed after the statute of limitations had expired.
In 2020, Riis formally apologized ahead of the official route announcement that confirmed the Tour’s start in Denmark. Prudhomme accepted the apology, but said, “It does not mean that you can strike a line over the past, I welcome it and it is a step forward.”
The local organising committee, Denmark Copenhagen Denmark, said Danish officials over Danish riders.
Prudhomme echoed the statements, responding to questions about Riis’ absence, stating “we work with politicians and not with former riders” but indicated he didn’t hold a grudge.
“I know about the past. It’s not so good and nice. But if he stood in front of me, I would of course shake his hand,” Prudhomme said.
Current Danish stars want to turn the page
Riane is not the only Dane to have been caught in cycling’s murky past. QuickStep-AlphaVinyl directeur sportif Brian Holm, a former teammate of Riis, also admitted to using EPO during his career. Michael Rasmussen, removed from the Tour de France in 2007 by his Rabobank team for whereabouts violations, admitted to using a performance-enhancing drug following Lance Armstrong’s doping confession and lifetime ban.
It’s a legacy of Danish cycling that current riders like QuickStep-AlphaVinyl’s Kasper Asgreen want to leave where behind.
“I think there’s been a huge cultural shift around the doping past that has been cycling, not just in Denmark but across the whole world,” Asgreen said in a press conference on Wednesday.
“I think we are happy to be a rider in this day and age instead of being a rider when it was necessary to compete, and you’re really forced to make that decision if you wanted to be a professional. “
Eufemiano Fuentes, and various confessions described by the EPO-fueled 1990s and early 2000s during Armstrong’s Tour de France reign the atmosphere where it was difficult to be competitive without doping.
Asgreen said that era is over. “It’s just not a consideration anymore – you don’t have to worry about it, because in my experience, you enter the pro ranks and you have a chance immediately. It’s not like you’re just getting destroyed, you can contribution with work that helps out your teammates and some guys are even strong enough to win from their first year like Mr Fabio [Jakobsen] over here, “he said, referring to his teammate.
“I was not one of those, but you could see that the difference is not huge, with a little more experience and a little more work in the legs, you’ll get there, so I think [doping] it’s not a consideration for anyone anymore and the broad cycling community and all the fans, they believe in that at this point, at least I hope they do. “
Jonas Vingegaard, a surprise podium finisher after Jumbo-Visma teammate Primož Roglič crashed out of the Tour de France in 2021, said he understood if fans doubted the integrity of the current peloton.
“There are always concerns because of what they did, and that’s normal.” “If I was a spectator, I would also have my doubts of what they did in the past.
“I don’t feel like it’s hindering me. I don’t feel like it’s something bad.”