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Reports confirm links to Riis merger with NTT

A Wednesday press conference is expected to reveal details of the 1996 Tour winner joining the South African team as sport director and partner

Reports in the Danish media confirm running rumors that Bjarne Riis, with two other partners, is poised to take over part of the WorldTour squad Team NTT ownership and join as sport director for 2020.

According BT and other Danish outlets, Riis and partners will buy into part of NTT’s WorldTour operation via his Virtu Cycling team, and Riis will become lead sport manager with the South African-registered team. A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Copenhagen.

There was no comment or confirmation from Team NTT officials Tuesday.

Riis, 55, has not been involved in WorldTour-level racing since leaving Saxo Bank in 2015 following an acrimonious split with former team owner Oleg Tinkov. After leaving Saxo Bank, Riis joined up with longtime business partner Lars Seier Christensen to form Virtu Cycling, with the goal of returning to the WorldTour with a Danish backer.

Those efforts stalled, though Riis did form development and women’s teams as they pursued sponsorship deals. Riis — who is known from such monikers as the Eagle from Herning and Mr. 60 Percent — won the 1996 Tour de France, but later admitted to using doping products during his racing career, with some of his riders as a manager linked to ongoing scandals. During his management career, he ran teams under the sponsorship banners of Memory Card-Jack & Jones, Team CSC, and Saxo Bank-SunGard before selling his interest to Russian magnate Tinkov. Their relationship quickly deteriorated, and Riis left the team in 2015.

Since 2016, Riis and Seier Christensen have been searching for backers to create a Danish WorldTour team in time for the start of the 2021 Tour de France in Copenhagen. It appears the deal with Team NTT, formerly Dimension Data, developed during negotiations over the past several months. The name will remain Team NTT, BT reported.

Danish newspaper BT reported that a deal was close to being finalized before hitting some late-hour snags, but now all appears to be revealed Wednesday.