Oleg Tinkov has admitted he has mixed emotions about leaving the sport of cycling at the end of the year but that it is time for him to take the rational decision and wave goodbye.
Tinkov exclusively revealed to Cyclingnews in 2015 that he would leave the sport at the end of this season and his Tinkoff squad are set to close if they cannot find a sponsor for 2017. It’s expected that Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan – the team’s star riders – will move to Trek-Segafredo and Astana respectively for next year.
Speaking at the Critérium du Dauphiné at the weekend, Tinkov admitted that, with his departure date from the sport moving closer, he was feeling emotional but confident that he had made the right decision. He has constantly stressed that the economic model within cycling hinders squads such as his and that the UCI has not done enough to stablise teams or revenue streams.
“In the team car I thought that I was tired of it. I’ve played with my toy but of course I regret that I’m leaving, but I’ll watch onTV. It’s a mixture of emotions but it’s rational. I spent enough money for my toy, I played with it, and then I’m putting it in the corner. When you have kids you’ll know that,” he told the press.
Tinkov was at the Dauphiné for the final few stages and watched as his team tried to unsettle race leader and eventual Dauphiné winner Chris Froome (Team Sky). Despite attacking on each of the final three stages Contador was unable to put time into Froome and the Spaniard eventually finished fifth overall.
The Spaniard constantly looked to isolate Froome in the mountains and Tinkov felt that he had seen enough within the race to be optimistic for July, when Froome and Contador will go head-to-head and compete for their third Tour titles.
“The Tour is still three weeks from now so we’ll see. By the way I don’t think that Froome is as strong as last year. I see some signs of fatigue and he’s not that strong. He was stronger last year. He has strong teammates – that’s true – but if not for Landa and Poels he would have been in trouble.”
Tinkov added that Sky’s abundance of riches meant that even teams such as Tinkoff – who plough 23 million Euros into their squad each year – could not compete.
“They’re budget is ten million a year more, so they can afford to buy Landa, they can afford to buy anyone. For us it’s hard. We spend 23 million and Brailsford spends 33 million. Ten million in this business is a huge difference. We’re still in there fighting.
“I think Alberto is stronger than last year. That’s just my personal opinion but you have to judge it at the Tour, not the Dauphiné. If they go head-to head-then Alberto is equal to Chris, in my opinion, but they have a huge squad and there’s such investment around Froome.”