Hello and welcome to my second blog for Cyclingnews. I'm writing after an amazing skiing trip to Kamchatka with our general manager Stefano Feltrin and friends in the far east of Russia. We went helicopter skiing amongst the active volcanoes on incredible snow. It wasn't really off-piste skiing because there we no piste. We made them!
While I was away and despite an 11-hour time difference, I kept my eye on the world of cycling and it was great to see Alberto win so well at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
Although some of the cycling fans wrote him off last year, I knew it wasn’t the case and that's why I criticized him and tried to motivate him; I knew he could deliver so much more. Now he has shown it.
He did a superb ride at Tirreno-Adriatico. I think it was one of his best performance in many years. He showed his strength and ability and rode a clever race that blew everyone else away. Then he was also good at the Volta a Catalunya. He lost to Rodriguez by a few seconds in Barcelona because the parcour was much better suit to Purito but he beat Chris Froome and that has not happened for quite a few months. At Pais Vasco he defeated Alejandro Valverde with an intelligent performance in the hills and then with a fantastic time trial.
What I especially like about Alberto is that he's much more relaxed now and in a good mood. I have been talking to Alberto quite a lot during his races and I can see how he is mentally strong and happy now. The stress and frustration has disappeared. Now he knows he is the strongest and the best rider in the world.
This was important for him and for us. Now the pressure is on Team Sky and Chris Froome. Let see their response :-). It seems to me that Team Sky has some issues.
It's nice to see my team near the top of the UCI WorldTour team rankings and Alberto on the top of the individual ranking. It's where we deserve to be. Our goal is clear: to be number one in both rankings at the end of the season. Our early success will also give us the necessary moral boost going into the Ardennes Classics and the Grand Tour season, which we approaching very fast.
I am not really involved in Alberto's training and I only learned from reading Cyclingnews that Steven de Jongh is helping him this year.
Some of the media seems to have concerns about Steven and his past and what that might mean for Tinkoff-Saxo and Alberto. I'll tell you what it means: nothing.
Steven just one of our sports director, one of the key management in the team. I have met him only once and I know nothing about his past, therefore I can't talk about it. I didn't even know that he was former pro rider from the nineties. Should I know? Should I be concerned? Absolutely not. I don’t overload my brain with the information that isn't important to me.
I know now that Steven left Team Sky because of their zero tolerance policy and then afterwards he admitted to doping during his career. It's a real pity that he doped but he raced in an unfortunate era and we all know that what happened then must never be allowed to happen again. I think we have to find a constructive, forward thinking way to help professional cycling move on from the doping of the past.
At Tinkoff-Saxo we have zero tolerance to doping now and we would never sign any rider that has suspicious based on their existing data. However I don’t believe you can have a zero tolerance policy for the past. To make it work and be real, you'd have to fire almost all the riders and staff that are over 40 and raced in the nineties. How can you do that? Even the UCI does not think zero tolerance is a solution to the difficult past and that's why it has created its own commission. To have a zero tolerance policy for the past is just PR and Marketing.
Did you fall for our April Fool joke?
We joked about merging with Cannondale and so signing Peter Sagan for 2015. A lot of people and even parts of the Danish media who love to be super serious all the time, fell for it, which was a big laugh for me.
It was just some fun but it worked because there was a hint of truth to it. Who wouldn't like to have Peter Sagan in their team? for sure I want him for Tinkoff-Saxo. Of course we face some tough rivals such as Alonso, the Kazakh government (Astana), some other rich European teams but we will continue to fight to sign him for 2015. But I think we've got a great chance. Cycling is not the GP Monaco, and so Alonso doesn't have an advantage on us. I'd never be able to beat him in a Formula 1 race but maybe I can beat him in the race to sign Sagan.
With Sagan in our team we would obviously be a major contender in the Cobbled classics. Unfortunately we didn't have a great cobbled campaign this year because of injuries to Oliver Zaugg, Matti Breschel and Daniele Bennati. However I am very confident for the Ardennes Classics and think Roman Kreuziger can do well again after winning the Amstel Gold Race last year. I'll be in Belgium next week for Liege-Bastogne-Liege and so I hope the team can get a result while I'm there. No pressure boys!
As a final point, I want to reveal that we had a meeting with the new UCI President Brian Cookson recently. It was very constructive and interesting. I'm sure Brian is going to change cycling for the better, and cycling will be very different in the years to come. I feel that almost everyone in the sport agrees that cycling at the highest level needs to be managed much more professionally and not to be monopolized by any party. That's good!
I plan to write my next blog from sunny Italy as I ride every day during the Giro d'Italia. I am planning to do whole three weeks on the race. My ski season is officially closed now, and it's time for the bike, starting on May 9th in Northern Ireland. I can't wait!