Tinkoff shows his support for embattled Riis

Russian businessman ready to become first sponsor in 2014

Bjarne Riis returned to the Tour de France to see Alberto Contador suffer in the Pyrenees and lose time to big rival Chris Froome (Team Sky).

The Saxo-Tinkoff team owner and manager has kept a low profile this season and especially at the Tour de France. He strangely opted to miss the opening two stages in Corsica and then left the race after the team time trial in Nice.

The Dane has been pursued by the Danish media after yet more revelations about doping under his tenure as team manager. Tyler Hamilton made a series of accusations in is book "The Secret Race" and Laurent Jalabert has been discredited and dropped by French television for the Tour de France after it was revealed EPO was discovered in one of his urine samples from the 1998 Tour de France.

Riis revealed that Anti-Doping Denmark has begun to investigate his time as a rider and a team manager. He used it as a reason not comment further but it seems the investigation could be as thorough as the USADA probe into Lance Armstrong.

Riis was nicknamed 'Mr. 60%' for his alleged sky high haematocrit in the nineties. He confessed to doping in 2007 but insisted to Cyclingnews recently that he deserves to stay in the sport.

Despite the pressure Riis to explain his murky past, he continues to have full support from current second-name sponsor Tinkoff Bank and the Russian bank's volcanic owner Oleg Tinkoff.

"Riis isn't a problem for me. I've been in cycling for a while and so I'm used to this kind of speculation, Tinkoff told Cyclingnews and Danish television.

"I don't care about his (Riis) past. Now I know we are a clean team and that we don't do anything weird. I'm sponsoring the team now, I'm not concerned about his past. His past is his past. He has to deal
with it. Not me."

Tinkoff hit back at suggestions that Riis' damage reputation could affect his sponsorship value or credibility.

"I don’t know who doped and didn't dope. If you ask me, I think they all doped in the nineties. And so what? Who wasn't doping?" Tinkoff said provocatively.

"I'm here to talk about my sponsorship and today I don't believe there's any doping in the peloton. That's what I believe. Unless there is a stupid case comes out from time to time, or if some young riders try to play but don't understand how it works these days. But in our team there is no doping, so I don't care."

Team to become Tinkoff-Saxo in 2014?

Tinkoff has clashed with the Danish media several times during the first week of the Tour de France. He claims he was misquoted when it was reported he wanted to take over as the main sponsor of the team in 2014.

"The Danish press is always putting pressure on everyone, it's a weird press," he said.

"I don't understand the Danish media. They ask weird question plus they twist my words. I could sue them for twisting my words."

"It's not true that I want to become the main sponsor. We don't have a main sponsor; we have a first and a second sponsor. This year Saxo is the first sponsor and I'm clearly the second sponsor. What I'd like to have and what we're negotiating at the moment with the team and with Saxo Bank, is that Tinkoff Bank will be the first sponsor and Saxo Bank will become the second sponsor."

"That's a big possibility and I think we could finale it during the Tour de France."


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