PYSO, ep. 52: Bjarne Riis on leadership, cohesion, and creativity in team strategy

"I guarantee you NTT Pro Cycling is going to be a weapon when we come out racing again," Riis said.

Get access to everything we publish when you join VeloNews or Outside+.

After an absence from the sport, longtime team director Bjarne Riis is back in the WorldTour at the helm of NTT Pro Cycling. Riis is well known for many things — winning the 1996 Tour de France as a rider, his doping confession, and leading many riders to victory as the boss of Team CSC / Saxo Bank / Saxo Bank-Tinkoff.

As a team leader, Riis has long been a proponent of team building, often taking teams on military-like exercises in the early months of the year to build cohesion.

With NTT, Riis has been working with team management and riders to develop that cohesion remotely, through Zwift racing and regular communication, and other strategies that he isn’t yet ready to talk about beyond saying he has established ‘six pillars’ of training. But he is confident that NTT will come out of the pandemic lockdown ready to race.

“I guarantee you NTT Pro Cycling is going to be a weapon when we come out racing again,” Riis said. “Because that was what I explained [to the riders]: I want you to be a weapon in what you do.”

In his recent years away from directing a WorldTour team, Riis said he missed “fighting in a creative way.” While Ineos has the the biggest budget and can hire many of the best riders, other teams have to be creative and organized in their tactics, he said.

“What’s important to me is being a team, not just saying we are a team but showing it,” he said. “You know, the way we race the race together in the peloton, the way we move together, everything we do as a team,” he said. “And that’s the culture you build.”

Listen in for a conversation with Gus Morton and Bobby Julich, who for a time raced for Riis at CSC.