The Tinkoff-Saxo team has announce that former team owner and current team manager Bjarne Riis will leave the team with immediate effect after an alleged falling out with team owner Oleg Tinkov.
“Tinkoff Sport A/S - Managing company of team Tinkoff Saxo - and Bjarne Riis have reached a mutual agreement to terminate all contracts entered between Tinkoff Sport A/S and Bjarne Riis with immediate effect,” a statement issued by the team said.
“All terms of said agreement shall remain confidential and both parties shall abstain from making any further comment. Early next week, Tinkoff Saxo will announce, in a separate statement, the new structure of its technical and performance group.”
“Tinkoff Saxo would like to thank its title sponsors, Tinkoff Bank and Saxo Bank, as well as all its other sponsors and suppliers for their continued support and confidence shown in the team. At the same time, the team looks forward to continuing receiving the support of its fans both on the road and on its social media platforms.”
Riis was placed on non-active status by the team before last week’s Milan-San Remo. Tinkov was reported to be unhappy with how Riis was managing the team and the two were seen arguing during the recent Tirreno-Adriatico race. CEO of long-time sponsor Saxo Bank, Lars Seier Christensen, apparently tried to broker a peace deal between the two by travelling to Switzerland but he told Danish media that neither Riis or Tinkov seemed keen to make up and work together.
The team insisted that the decision was not based on the team’s lack of results or financial problems. However the Russian team has won just two races so far this season, with Alberto Contador taking a stage at the Ruta del Sol and Peter Sagan winning stage six at Tirreno-Adriatico. Contador was only fifth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, while Sagan has landed lots of placing but finished fourth in Milan-San Remo and was only 30th in Friday’s E3 Harelbeke after being unable to respond to Geraint Thomas’s late attack. Contador finished fourth overall at the Volta a Catalunya on Sunday, while Sagan was left isolated in the chase group at Gent-Wevelgem and could only sprint for tenth place, more than six minutes behind winner Luca Paolini.
It seems the difference in character between Riis and Tinkov left them unable to work together. Now the Russian team will have rebuild team moral and hope the change in team manager can help Sagan and the other riders perform better. Several riders, including team leader Alberto Contador came out in support of Riis, describing him as 'important' for his career. Contador agreed to sign a contract extension with Tinkoff-Saxo for 2016 on March 10, just a few days before the problems between Riis and Tinkov emerged.
It seems that Contador's preferred coach and directeur sportif Steven De Jongh will remain with the team. Riders at Tinkoff-Saxo have apparently been ordered not to comment on the divorce with Riis, risking dismissal if they do.