Steven De Jongh, the head director sportif at Tinkoff-Saxo, has told the De Telegraaf newspaper that he could create his own team in 2017 after Oleg Tinkov revealed he will end his sponsorship and sell his team after the 2016 season.
Tinkov revealed his plans to quit professional cycling in an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews on Saturday. He said Tinkoff Bank had achieved its sponsorship goals in cycling and opted not to invest any of his personal wealth because of the lack of reforms in professional cycling.
“If nobody else cares about the future of the sport, then why should I care?” Tinkov told Cyclingnews. “From January 2017, I’m gone. I’m out of cycling. I’ll jump on my jet, fly home and focus on my business interests and enjoying my life. Everyone who is left in cycling will be the ones who will be in the shit. They will have to try to survive year by year, trying to convince sponsors to back a sport that isn’t sustainable.”
Tinkov is currently in Gran Canaria at the team’s training camp and told the riders and staff of his decision on Friday night. De Jongh is senior directeur sportif and works closely with Alberto Contador – who will target the Tour de France in what is expected to be the Spaniard’s last season at WorldTour level. Contador could ride for his development team but is more than likely to end his career.
De Jongh is 42 and joined the Tinkoff set-up after three years as directeur sportif at Team Sky. He was forced to leave the British squad after confessing to doping during his professional career.
"It is not a complete surprise to me that the team could cease to exist and I'm not really worried about my future. My contract ends in 2016 too,” de Jongh told De Telegraaf, confirming he will look to create his own team rather than continue with Contador in some way.
“Alberto’s intention is to stop after next year, unless the Tour is a complete failure and his team is very small. But I'm not going to leave. My goal is to carry on in the sport. I'm going to see what happens and see if a sponsor is interested, because my goal for 2017 is to have my own team."
Tinkov revealed that team CEO Stefano Feltrin is looking to secure new sponsorship and new ownership for the team for 2017. Peter Sagan, Rafal Majka and the team’s neo-pros all have contracts for 2017 with the team, so this could be a way of attracting a new sponsor and new owner.
Tinkov bought the team from Bjarne Riis and said he is open to selling it back to the Dane despite sacking him as team manager in the spring.
“I don’t mind who buys the team. It can be Bjarne Riis if he wants the team back,” Tinkov said. “Someone has mentioned that the Polish guy behind the CCC team is interested or maybe someone else. Whoever pays the highest price will get the team. It’s got some assets. Peter Sagan and Rafa Majka have contracts for 2017 and so who ever buys the team, automatically gets those guys for a year and Peter is the best rider in the world now.”