Oleg Tinkov was happy to see Alberto Contador extending his overall lead in the Giro d’Italia after following the stage in the Tinkoff-Saxo team car, yet he struggled to hide his anger against the Astana and Katusha teams, who attacked and forced Contador to chase after he stopped for a wheel change 20km before the start of the Mortirolo. The Spaniard went on to catch, pass and distance Fabio Aru and many of his other overall rivals but was forced to make a huge effort.
There was much debate about fair play, respect, class and honesty after the stage at the team buses and in the hotels. Much of it was in Russian, with Tinkov calling Katusha directeur sportif Dimitri Konychev to question why they attacked en mass, as Contador slipped back to get a back wheel from teammate Ivan Basso.
Konychev insisted to Cyclingnews that they did not know that Contador was behind when the team hit the front on the descent to Aprica to set up Yuri Trofimov for the Mortirolo.
“I told Oleg on the phone that race radio didn’t announce that Contador had punctured. I just heard that one of the Astana riders had stopped – whether it was because of a fall or not, I don’t know. But I didn’t expect that Contador would lose Aru’s wheel [on the descent],” the Russian said almost mischievously.
“We knew that there was a bad, bad descent after Aprica and we went to the front to set our own tempo and we managed to get up to the front group that changed the race a bit because Contador wasn’t up there. In the end, we rode our race and Astana rode theirs. It went well for us. Trofimov rode well and moved up to fifth overall.”
The Astana team was more honest about attacking Contador, with Mikel Landa admitting that they tried to take advantage of his moment of misfortune.
“We went hard on the flat before the Mortirolo to make it hard for Contador, so that he might be a little more tired when he caught us,” Landa said in his press conference. “We saw that Contador had a problem, and we tried to take advantage of it. I believe that we caused him some pain to catch us. Katusha broke up the group and went full gas, and we collaborated with them.”
Tinkov has often for stopped coffee and a chat at the Katusha team bus at stage starts during the Giro d’Italia but that relationship took a blow on the road to Aprica. The relationship with Astana has never been good and has become far worse as the Kazakhstani team has constantly attacked and jabbed at Contador during the Giro d’Italia.
“I don’t want to say too much but I think there was much more respect for the maglia rosa five or 10 years ago. Now when the leader punctures, they attack; when the leader crashes, they attack,” Tinkov told Cyclingnews after praising his riders at the Tinkoff-Saxo team bus.
“It’s up to the fans to say if there was fair play from the Astana and Katusha team. Maybe I’m wrong but I’ll be happy to hear what the Astana and Katusha fans have to say about it on Twitter.”
"Alberto showed that he’s the boss here"
Contador now leads Mikel Landa by 4:02, with his Astana teammate Fabio Aru slipping to third at 4:52. The Astana riders are hoping to accompany Contador on the final podium in Milan but Tinkov sees a different podium.
“For me this is the real podium after what happened today: Alberto is first on the top step and there is no one in second place and only one in third place,” he said bluntly.
Tinkov also mocked the attempts by Astana and Katusha to distance Contador before the Mortirolo.
“I don’t understand what they were hoping to do by being 40 seconds ahead at the start of the Mortirolo. Alberto was by far the strongest guy here… I don’t think Astana and Katusha showed any class,” he said.
“We were a little bit pissed off and angry with what happened, but then we just followed Alberto from the car as he picked up as many minutes as possible on the others. It was good to watch. Alberto showed he’s a great champion and showed that he’s the boss here.”
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