Bjarne Riis and Oleg Tinkov in happier times. Photo: Nils Meilvang/Scanpix
Bjarne Riis has been suspended as manager of Tinkoff-Saxo, the cycling team of two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and Slovak Peter Sagan confirmed on Tuesday.
Riis, 50, has not been "actively involved in the team's activities since last Sunday," the outfit confirmed.
Team members claim the club's billionaire Russian owner Oleg Tinkov blames the 50-year-old Dane for poor results. But in a statement Tinkoff-Saxo insisted the former cyclist "was not suspended from his active role because of lack of results nor for financial issues".
"The team's management has full confidence in the technical and performance team, in all the riders and staff members and is currently working to establish the best way forward in the racing season," the statement said.
Contador spoke out in support of his team chief, although he said he was in the dark over the suspension.
"Right now the first thing is to truly understand the situation because all we know is what is in the statement and basically we need to know why this decision has been taken," he said before the start of Tuesday's second stage of the Tour of Catalonia.
He added that Riis is "someone very important in my career".
Riis won the 1996 Tour de France, but admitted in 2007 that he used EPO (erythropoietin) to secure victory, although his win has not been officially erased from the race's record books.
Riis partnered up with Tinkoff Credit Systems ahead of the 2013 season, and the following year sold the team, which he has run since his retirement in 1999, to Tinkov.