The current Tinkoff team management are hoping to secure a new title sponsor by the end of the Giro d’Italia and have pencilled in the Italian Grand Tour as their ‘first deadline’ in their quest to find a new financial backer.
The team is currently owned by Russian Oleg Tinkov but he confirmed to Cyclingnews earlier this year that he would end his association with the squad at the end of 2016. Tinkov had bought the team from previous owner Bjarne Riis in 2013 and has sunk millions of Euros into the team, while also signing Peter Sagan on a reported four million Euro per year. The current world champion has a contract with the team for 2017 but is likely to be free to move to another team if a major new sponsor is not secured. Alberto Contador will lead the Tinkoff team in the Tour de France but is set to retire at the end of the 2016 season.
Stefano Feltrin, the team’s general manager, has been part of the set up since Oleg Tinkov returned to the sport and is leading the search for a new title sponsor.
“We’re working on securing a title sponsor for 2017 and beyond. If we succeed we’ll make an announcement. It’s public news that Tinkoff Bank are ending their project at the end of the year, so there’s no other alternative than for us to find a new sponsor,” Feltrin told Cyclingnews.
“The realistic deadline is the end of the season but the end of the Giro d’Italia is the first turning point. Then we’ll see where we are at and we’ll talk to everyone in the team then and then everyone will state their opinion on what they will do. By then we’d like to have everything in place.”
Riis was rumoured to be interested in returning to the team but it seems more likely that the Dane will be part of the new Bahrain-sponsored set-up that is keen to have Vincenzo Nibali as team leader. Feltrin refuses to rule out any scenario but Riis has not made contact since selling the team.
“In this world everything is possible. Oleg Tinkov has clearly said that he’s selling the team so if someone comes with enough funds… there’s no ban on any specific people. Anything is possible.”
“The goal is to fully find a title sponsor and we’re fully focussed on securing one for next year.”
Feltrin, assuming he can attract a sponsor ahead of the finalisation of the UCI’s reforms, must also attempt to finalise a budget that would presumably seek to keep the riders and staff at WorldTour level.
“To be honest, that’s not really the main question. We can work with a budget but it depends on what the objective is of the potential sponsor. First we need a project to work with and then we can secure the budget. It doesn’t work the other way around. I can say that I want a team that can fight with Team Sky and we know what their budget is so you need a budget to do that. If you want to be in the WorldTour, then you need the budget to do that.”