Oleg Tinkov: Who is the best Grand Tour rider at the moment?

Tinkoff-Saxo owner picks favourites for the Vuelta

It’s time for the Vuelta a Espana, but unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to be at the race much this year, perhaps only for the finish. Last year we celebrated Alberto Contador’s big win, but I’ve got a lot of travelling lined up with the bank in the next few weeks. Like a lot of people, I’ve got to start working again after a long summer.

Hopefully my riders can do well in my absence. We’ve got Peter Sagan and Rafa Majka in the team with some strong support. There are a lot of uphill finishes that suit Peter very well, and that’s why I was keen he rode the Vuelta instead of an alternative race programme in North America. I believe Peter can win some stages. It’s also a good way to prepare for the world championships. I’d love him to win the worlds and so bring the rainbow jersey to the team, but the worlds is a big gamble. Rather than take a risk on the worlds and ride the Vuelta as preparation, we need him to win races for Tinkoff-Saxo.

It’d be unrealistic to expect that Rafa wins against such strong rivals like Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and the Astana trio of Nibali, Aru and Landa. I’ll be happy if he wins some stages too and makes it into the top five overall.

It should be a good race, and I’m curious to see what happens inside the Astana team at the Vuelta because they brought too many leaders. Aru, Nibali and Landa will be like three lions in a cage fighting with each other. Landa is leaving for Team Sky but is young, ambitious and so difficult to control. Nibali is motivated to win a Grand Tour and Aru, too. I think it’s going to be a mess for my friend Vino but it will be entertaining for the rest of us.

People might be surprised that I name Froome as my favourite for the Vuelta, but I think he’s going to win. I think he’s the number one Grand Tour rider alongside Alberto [Contador]. Of course, if Alberto was riding, I think he’d kick his ass and beat him. But I don’t have any regret that Alberto is not riding the Vuelta because he rode the Giro and Tour double. And we won the Giro!

However, I think it is time to implement the Grand Tour challenge that I suggested last year. Sport is about identifying the best. It happens in other sports, so why not in cycling.

Who is the best Grand Tour rider in cycling at the moment? Personally, I think Alberto is the best because he won the Giro and then went to fight with Froome and the others in the Tour. He is my hero. Froome won the Tour but wasn’t at the Giro. How can he be considered the best?

I think all the big Grand Tour riders should ride the same programme. That would make the racing much more fair, be more entertaining and so allow the television broadcasters to make more money, too. Everyone would benefit if they all compete against each other. I think either the UCI, race organisers or even Velon should change the rules. I’m becoming more and more disappointed with the UCI and Brian Cookson, so perhaps we should do it ourselves instead of waiting for them.

It wasn’t fair that Alberto started the Tour with the fatigue of the Giro in his legs. It wasn’t a fair match and was even a stupid match. But now we’ll see how Froome, Quintana, Valverde and Nibali deal with the fatigue of the Tour during the Vuelta. Aru will be fresh, and the other three will understand how Alberto fought and suffered at the Tour de France against them. In a week’s time, I’d like to ask them: ‘How are you feeling now? Do you think it’s fair that you started the Tour fresh against Alberto who had ridden the Giro?"

I’m sure they’ll have changed their minds.

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