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Bjarne Riis explains decision to remove Andy Schleck, Stuart O’Grady from the Vuelta a Espana

A late-night beer Monday evening cost Andy Schleck and Stuart O’Grady dearly. The pair was sent home by an angry Saxo Bank team boss Bjarne Riis, who spotted them walking back into the team hotel.

Riis removed Schleck and O’Grady from the Vuelta a España ahead of Tuesday’s start of the 10th stage for violating internal team rules which outline rider conduct during races.

“It doesn’t matter if it was one drink or 10, or if he was out until five in the morning and that’s between us anyway, rules are made to be kept,” Riis told reporters after stage 10 of the Tour of Spain. “I’m not here to give any explanations or further details. What actually happened will stay between us.”

Neither Schleck nor O’Grady were at the start Tuesday and were already traveling home by the time the news spread that would not be starting Tuesday’s stage.

Riis, who showed up at the Vuelta a few days ago, said it was a “pity” to lose Schleck ahead of Wednesday’s summit finish in Andorra, but defended his decision to send the two riders home.

“That’s how it’s got to be. He didn’t follow the rules, and he’s got to take responsibility for that,” Riis continued. “We’re all professionals, I have to be responsible for the team overall. When you do something in this life, you have to assume the consequences.”

Andy Schleck’s early departure will be a blow to his brother, Frank, who will be missing his sibling as the Vuelta turns into its hardest part of the race.

Hot off second overall at the Tour de France, Andy Schleck said he wasn’t here to win the Vuelta, but instead to aid his older brother, who crashed out of the Tour this year in stage 3 with a broken clavicle.

The Schleck brothers are both leaving Riis’s Saxo Bank team at the end of the 2010 season to start their own Luxembourg-backed team. O’Grady has been linked to the move as well.

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