Last December, Oleg Tinkov announced in London, that he would be taking over as the owner of the Tinkoff-Saxo team. The flamboyant Russian businessman has long had an interest in the sport, as a sponsor and owner, but this is the first time he has had control of a major WorldTour team. The outfit that he bought was struggling to live up to its former glories and Alberto Contador had a disappointing 2013 season. Now that Tiknov is in charge, he is hoping to inspire the team to bigger and better things.
"The goal is to create a good group, to lay the foundations to build the best team in the world," Tinkov told Spanish newspaper AS in an interview at the Giro d'Italia, where Tinkov is riding his bike each day. "(I want) to realise a good training programme, nutrition and foundation. I don’t just want to have the best riders in the team, I also want to make the perfect climate with the technical staff, the assistants, the soigneurs and all the people that we have around."
"We are good, but I can’t say that we are the best. But we hope that we can achieve that in 2015. I have promised this."
Things look to be going in the right direction at the Giro d’Italia. Tinkoff-Saxo put in a decent team time trial on the opening day and their main classification hopes Rafal Majka and Nicolas Roche are sitting 24 and 37 seconds behind of Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) ahead of the first mountain stages later this week.
As ever, Tinkov wants more and has set his sights on the top step of the podium.
"The aspiration is to win the maglia rosa. Nicolas Roche and Rafal Majka are two exceptional riders," he said.
Contador can win the Tour
Tinkov caused controversy last year when he criticised Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) for failing to win the Tour de France. Contador had a troubled 2013 where he only took one victory, at the Tour de San Luis in January. However he seems back to his best and has already taken six wins this season - including the overall classification at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Vuelta al País Vasco.
Contador’s recent results have his boss singing a new tune this season.
"Right now I see him as the number one and the toughest of riders. His is first in the UCI rankings. He is in the top rung of the peloton. We hope to continue this great momentum to win the Tour de France," said Tinkov. "I think that he can. I am convinced of it."
When Tinkov took to Twitter, it was to say that Contador was being paid too much for his results. The 31-year-old is still on the same contract as he was last season, so does Tinkov think he’s on too much now?
"Now he races in my team and I am the owner of the team," said Tinkov. "I am happy with his performance and there is a deal. There is a contract and I respect it and he respects it. It is a professional subject. Besides, at that time I wasn’t the main sponsor."
Contador’s form makes him one of the favourites to stop the Team Sky dominance at the Tour de France. The British team has won the last two editions in commanding style, with Chris Froome winning by over four minutes in 2013. There have been cracks in the British team’s armour this year and a number of their top riders have pulled out of races due to illness and injury. Tinkov has taken confidence in this and he believes that his team can take the fight to Team Sky this summer.
"They are not as strong as they have been in the previous two years. They are human, they seem normal to me in many ways they have slowed down after two seasons at that level, but certainly at the Tour de France we will have a huge battle between Tinkoff-Saxo and Team Sky," Tinkov predicted.