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Oleg Tinkov leads the Tinkoff-Saxo riders out on their training run
I'm sure we'll see Alberto attack
Oleg Tinkov spent stage eight of the Tour de France in the Tinkoff-Saxo team car next to Bjarne Riis and was wearing a huge smile post-race after his team rode strongly on the steep climbs and Alberto Contador gained a few seconds on race leader and big rival Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
"I'm happy. Alberto looked good and the team was strong. It was great to see Mick Rogers and Nicolas Roche riding so well and we saw that [Rafal] Majka is coming back to his best," Tinkoff said.
"The real Tour started in the Vosges and especially on Monday. So far it has just been about survival and I think Alberto is looking good for the second and third weeks."
Tinkov's relationship with Contador now seems far better than at the 2013 Tour de France, when the Russian businessman criticised him for failing to be competitive against Chris Froome.
However when asked what he expects from Contador, Tinkov was as blunt as ever.
"To win," he said. "But if he's on the final podium, it’s not a tragedy and nobody will commit suicide. Of course, it's the Tour de France and we want him to win. We want him to be number one. I think he's on top form, he's prepared very well. He showed he was good on the pavé stage."
Tinkov said he liked what he had seen of his riders so far in the Tour. "I like the fluorescent colours, it's easy to see them in the race," he said, justifying Tinkoff-Saxo's switch from yellow to fluorescent yellow colours for the Tour de France.
"So far we didn’t control the race but that wasn't the plan. Some people, including Cyclingnews, doubted our team tactics and the strength of the team but our tactics were different. It was more important to survive the first week, without crashes, rather than controlling the race. We did that well. We only lost one guy, Jesus Hernandez, and so we're good."
A cycling holiday at the Tour de France
Tinkov arrived at the Tour with his wife, children and even the family dog after a holiday in Biarritz and the Basque Country. Following a week with his family, he is determined to enjoy his first Tour as team owner.
"I enjoy being here. It's my sport, my fun. I've been in cycling since 1982, when I was a junior rider. The Tour de France is a special event and it's very exciting to be here," he said.
"My family has gone to our place in Italy but it's good my kids share the passion for cycling with their father. I'll be staying until the end of the Tour now and I hope to ride everyday. A few days ago I was in the Pyrenees and I rode the Col d'Aspin and the Col du Tourmalet for the first time in my life. They're hard climbs. I was scouting for the guys a bit and saw they were putting down new asphalt."
Genuinely sorry for Froome, worried about Nibali and Valverde
Tinkov seemed genuinely sorry that Chris Froome had crashed out of the Tour de France and would no longer be a rival to Contador in the race.
"It's a pity. We all wanted to see a battle between Contador and Froome in the high mountains. It would have been a pleasure to win that way for us. Unfortunately Chris is out," he said with a provocative laugh.
"I feel sorry for him. It's not good for him, it's not good for the Tour and it's not good for cycling. But it’s a race and the pavé is part of the road, so if he fell a lot, it means he was not riding his bike as he should and it was his mistake."
Nibali is now Contador's biggest threat to success, with Tinkov also naming Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as a danger.
"Nibali is the favourite to win overall because he has a lead but I think Contador and Valverde can challenge. I hope that Contador will win," he said.
"I think he'll make up the deficit and I'm sure we'll see Alberto attack. Definitely in the Pyrenees and maybe even in the Alps. Alberto likes to attack and so will attack. But we shouldn't forget the final 54km time trial. I think it's more suited to Alberto than his rivals. So I think we're looking good for the first ever victory for the Tinkoff-Saxo team."