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Oleg Tinkov

The new Tinkoff Saxo kit modeled by Oleg Tinkov and the team

Tinkov blog: Ready for a fight with Team Sky at Tour de France

Oleg Tinkov
July 04, 2014, 21:11 BST,
July 04, 2014, 21:21 BST

Tinkoff-Saxo team owner confident that Contador can beat Froome

Hello from Leeds! It's Tour de France time. Are you ready for a great race? I can’t wait for the racing to start. I won't be able to be on the race all the time but I'll be watching closely every day. If you want to support Tinkoff-Saxo during the Tour de France please use the Twitter hash tag Tinkoff4TDF.

I rode with the team on the cobbles before we flew to Leeds on my private jet and then I rode with the guys in the new team kit. Do you like it? I think it looks cool and stands out more.

I was surprised how tough the roads are in Yorkshire. They're often narrow and go up and down all the time. I'm not as fit as when I rode at the Giro but I'm sure it's going to be a crazy opening two stages.

Before talking about the Tour de France in detail, I want to get something off my chest about Roman Kreuziger's situation. We decided not to include him our Tour team because of the on-going case about possible variations in his UCI Biological Passport. It's a pity that we lost Roman because he's difficult to replace, but we continue to be the strongest team in the race and I trust Roman all the way.

To be honest I don't understand how an investigation can be shelved and then un-shelved over a three-year period. It looks weird and suspicious to open a case that is three years old on Alberto Contador's most important teammate just before the Tour de France.

It seems political, at least to me. I have met with Mr. Cookson, the UCI President recently. He impressed me a lot and is definitely a step forward from the previous UCI president, but this situation doesn't help things. Some people on Twitter suggested that Cookson is behind the Kreuziger case to favour Team Sky that is also British, but I don’t want to believe that.

Let's talk about Le Tour

Let's talk about the Tour de France because that's far more interesting than anything else.

I'm convinced the Tour will be a battle between Froome and Alberto this year. The bookmakers have made them the two big favourites, with everyone else set for a minor role. It's going to be like Chelsea and Manchester United fighting in the Champions League soccer final. Sky is United and we're Chelsea, who also have a Russian owner thanks to my friend Roman Abramovitch We're ready for a fight with Team Sky at Le Tour.

Froome has the power and cadence to attack, he can produce a lot of watts for a short time, but Alberto was able to go on his wheel at the Dauphine. Alberto is more old school in the way he races. He follows his instinct and listens to his body, while Froome seems follow what his power metre shows.

Cycling is about being both mental and physical strength and Alberto was not strong last year. But he is now. I've seen that in the races so far this season and in the last few days. I saw that when I rode on the cobbles with him this week. Bjarne Riis said he's in the form of his life and has never been better. He's very slim but still has his power. He dropped Froome twice at the Criterium di Dauphine. He's ready to take on Froome and beat him this time.

I'm convinced that Bjarne is the best sports director in the peloton and that he has selected a great team to help Alberto win. We're really strong for the Tour. That's not bullshit, even if some people won't agree. Okay the team wasn't great at the Dauphine but we learnt our lesson from that.

Team Sky is not great and I'm sure everyone would agree that they've had a terrible year. I'd be concerned if I was them but I also feel sorry for them. Sky is a big sponsor but they've had little return for their investment this year. They will have to put all their chips on the table at the Tour de France, while we don’t have to win the Tour to have a good season.

Anyway lets enjoy the racing and the final verdict will be decided in Paris. See you there to celebrate!

Brothers in arms: Riis and Tinkov at the team's training camp

Contador is back as the best rider in the world

Oleg Tinkov
April 17, 2014, 11:57 BST,
May 08, 2014, 21:40 BST

My thoughts on Alberto's great spring, Team Sky's zero tolerance and our April Fool

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.

Zero tolerance

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.

April Fool

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!


Brothers in arms: Riis and Tinkov at the team's training camp

Oleg Tinkov: My first blog

Oleg Tinkov
March 04, 2014, 15:25 GMT,
March 04, 2014, 14:25 GMT

My thoughts on the early season races, Contador's win and my training

Hello and welcome to my first blog for Cyclingnews. I'm going to be writing a blog about once a month to share my thoughts and opinions from a team owner's perspective.

I always say that Twitter and other social media are just for fun, so I hope this blog will be fun and entertaining too. It will also be serious because I love professional cycling and I want to contribute to make it a bigger, better and richer sport for everyone.

I don't make investments lightly and always take a direct interest when I invest my own money, so in January I spent some time with my riders, staff and management at the Tinkoff-Saxo training camp on Gran Canaria. It was the last training camp of the winter for the riders and the first camp of the year for me. We had a lot of good meetings and I also worked on getting fit again after smashing my knee while skiing last year. I suffered at first but it was a good week of warm weather training and I even managed to do a six-hour ride and another with 2500m of climbing.

Unfortunately I had to go back to the office and go home to Moscow because my wife Rina was complaining that she'd become a cycling widow. To make up for it, I took her to the Dubai Tour. She's not a big cycling fan but knows it's important for me and seemed to enjoy being the First Lady of the Tinkoff-Saxo team.

I went to Dubai because I really wanted to see my team in action after buying it from Bjarne Riis. It was great to spend a day in the team car. Races are a mix of business and pleasure now.

I'm going to be at as many races as I can. My race programme is not as intense as the pro riders but it's pretty good and my wife has signed it off. It means my mobile data roaming charges will be high but I'll have a mobile office when I'm at races. I want to ensure the team performs at its very best and I also want to enjoy riding my bike.

I'm going to the Strade Bianche this weekend, the opening team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico and then Milan-San Remo. Unfortunately I'll have to miss the Belgian Classics because I'll be skiing in Kamchatka. But I hope to see a lot of the Giro d'Italia. I want to ride a big part of each stage and then watch the finishes. We've got Nicolas Roche and Rafal Majka as team leaders and I'm confident they can do well in the GC.

Alberto is also looking good. Did you see how he won the stage in Algarve? I was happy for him and for the team. It was the first win for Tinkoff-Saxo and showed that Alberto has been working hard this winter. Good. I'm sure he's going to have a great season. I can't wait to see him take on Froome at Tirreno-Adriatico.

More cake for everyone

I was impressed by what I saw at the Dubai Tour. Dubai is one of the financial capitals of the world and so it's good that they interested in cycling too. The Emirates has a lot of money and so it's right that there are a series of races in the Middle East.

Ok, racing in the Middle East might hurt the traditional early-season races in Europe but that's the price of progress. Living in the past is the easiest way to be left behind. We should learn from tradition but we really need to make cycling a 21st century sport.

It's also good to promote cycling in other Asian countries. Cycling has its roots in Europe, in countries like Belgium, France, Italy and Spain but it deserves to be fully globalised. It's becoming very popular in the UK, the USA and Australia, so why not in Asia and the rest of the world too?

There's a rumour that Alonso's team will be based in Dubai and that the sponsorship will come from the area. That's great. I'm not trying to monopolise the sport and it's great that more wealthy, more international people are getting involved with the management of the sport. Inside the sport we're all a bit surprised that Alonso still hasn’t announced his main sponsor. Hopefully he's got the cash in place, otherwise it'll be a disaster.

Alonso's presence in cycling will also help us shake up the way the sport is managed. I think some people misunderstood my ideas in my interview with Cyclingnews a few weeks ago. Yes, I want a different business model for the sport and the sharing of the TV rights with teams. But I don't really want to go to war with ASO. Yes, we're trying to get a piece of cake for the teams but we also want to make the cake bigger, for all the stakeholders. We should all have more cake. Who doesn’t like cake?

Everyone has to understand how professional cycling can be more commercialized and how this can boost the income for the teams, the race organisers and the riders, and also give the fans a better sport to enjoy.

Nobody has involved the fans in plans to change cycling but I'd be interested in what you think. Let me know via Twitter.

Because some rider's agents saw that I floated Tinkoff Credit Systems on the London Stock Exchange, they think I'm going to going to pay huge wages to the riders I want to sign for 2015. They think I'm stupid and that I'm going to throw my money around. Obviously they're the stupid ones because I'm not going to pay what they want.

I want to have some of the best riders in cycling in my team but I know how to negotiate a deal. Salaries will increase but that's the market. The supply is steady but the demand will increase in 2015 as teams try to sign the best riders. As a businessman, I can only accept the rules of the market and try to out play the market by offering a team that is attractive to the riders, is successful and does everything to help the riders perform at their very best. That's the secret of success in business and in cycling.

Oleg Tinkov

Oleg Tinkov created his business empire by selling jeans he bought at a training camp as a junior. He now owns the Tinkoff-Saxo team and is never afraid to speak his mind, be it about team leader Alberto Contador, Tour de France rivals Team Sky and especially about how professional cycling is managed.