Saxo Bank has confirmed it will not sponsor the Tinkoff team in 2016, ending an eight-year relationship with the team created by Bjarne Riis and now owned by Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov.
As revealed by the UCI and more recently by Tinkov in an interview with Cyclingnews, Tinkoff will be the team's solo title sponsor in 2016, with the Russian bank funding much of the budget as Peter Sagan rides in the world champion's rainbow jersey and Alberto Contador targets the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in what is expected to be his final season at WorldTour level.
"It has been a privilege working with the team over the past eight seasons and we are extremely proud of the numerous successes we have achieved together during this time," Lars Seier Christensen and Kim Fournais, co-CEOs and co-Founders of Saxo Bank, said in an official announcement.
"We would like to thank both the current team as well as the heroes from the past, from Bjarne Riis over Alberto Contador, Peter Sagan, the Schleck Brothers, Fabian Cancellara, Carlos Sastre to Matti Breschel, Chris Anker Sørensen and all the other riders whose passion and integrity have boosted the teams and our own brand as a sponsor both in Denmark as well as globally."
Lars Seier Christensen recently announced he will step down as CEO of Saxo Bank. He is closely linked to Riis and has been reported to be trying to create a new team with the Dane or buy back the Tinkoff team structure that he sold to Tinkov in 2013 for a reported €4.5 million.
After reading the Saxo Bank press release, Tinkov contacted Cyclingnews to give his side of the story. The often outspoken Russian businessman claimed it was his decision to end the sponsorship after asking Saxo Bank to increase the amount they paid for second-name sponsorship.
"Saxo left after I asked them to pay real money for the sponsorship, not some kind of 'Riis deal'," Tinkov told Cyclingnews. "They simply had no money to pay, so we didn’t do a deal with them. Riis’ approach was always to give them a special price and then ask for more money. That is not my style. So this was MY decision (to end the sponsorship) not their decision."