While most teams are now planning and preparing for 2014, there is still no agreement between Tinkoff and Cannondale for their plans to join forces as title sponsors and team owners for the 2014 season.
An agreement between the American bike brand and the Russian businessman seemed imminent before Il Lombardia but two weeks on, both parties seem to have doubts about the deal, while insisting that talks were still ongoing.
Gazzetta dello Sport claimed on Saturday that a deal was now unlikely due to disagreement on who would have control of the team. The Italian newspaper also raised questions about how Tinkoff would provide its backing. However money does not seem an issue for the company after recent news that it is to be listed on the London Stock market for several hundred million pounds.
Roberto Amadio is the current team manager and Cannondale now owns 90% of the Brixia Sport management company that holds the riders’ contracts and the UCI WorldTour licence after buying 55% from former owners Paolo Zani and Paolo Papetti, who owned the team when Liquigas was the title sponsor. It seems that Tinkoff would take over the 55% of the company and so wants to have significant control of the team and its long-term strategy rather than the role of a simple sponsor on the team’s jersey. Tinkoff had its own team between 2006 and 2009 before selling the squad to Igor Makarov who turned it into the Katusha team. Tinkoff backed Bjarne Riis' Saxo Bank team this year but the two fell out after often vociferous owner Oleg Tinkov criticised Alberto Contador's performance at the 2013 Tour de France.
It has been reported Tinkoff would invest close to six million Euros and become lead sponsor of what would become Tinkoff-Cannondale in 2014. The Italian-based team had a reported budget of 10.5 million Euro in 2013 but the budget will rise to 12 million Euro in 2014 due to the rise in the cost of rider contracts, especially that of team leader Peter Sagan.
Rome-based lawyer Stefano Feltrin manages Tinkoff’s interest in Italy and is leading the negotiations with Amadio.
“It’s not true that the talks have broken down but we’ve haven’t reached a deal either. Negotiations are ongoing. It’s impossible to say what will happen or speculate on the chance that we’ll reach an agreement,” he told Cyclingnews.
Feltrin warned that Tinkoff could decided to follow Fernando Alonso’s strategy and decide not sponsor a team in 2014 and then possibly create its own team in 2015 when a new structure to the UCI WorldTour system is expected to be created.
Amadio told Cyclingnews that the team would remain in the peloton in 2014 even without the financial support of Tinkoff.
“I’m optimistic that we can reach a deal. The media reported that everything was agreed but we never said that. Business deals take time but it’s not a problem for the future of the team and for 2014.”
Cannondale was the sole title sponsor of the team in 2013 but needs extra funding to secure the team’s long-term future and extend Peter Sagan’s contract. He is already being courted by rival teams and could earn up to four million Euros a season in the future.
“The team will continue with or without the support of Tinkoff,” Amadio said while being careful to avoid confrontation with Tinkoff.
“We’ve submitted all the paperwork and the bank guarantees with the UCI for 2014. It’s up to Tinkoff to decide if they want to be part of the project.”