Tinkoff-Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov returned to the Giro d'Italia on Saturday, just in time to see Alberto Contador take back the pink jersey and set up overall success even before the mountain stages of the final week.
The Russian businessman drank from the huge bottle of Prosecco that Contador opened on the podium and then took a tour of the media mixed zone before Contador arrived. He could not stop himself from trash talking about rival team Astana but insisted he was happy for stage winner Vasil Kiryienka, who he claimed he discovered when he signed him to the Tinkoff Credit System in 2007.
"I came directly to Treviso from Moscow after undergoing surgery on my knee. I'm so glad I came," Tinkov said. "When he crashed yesterday on the stage to Jesolo I was in the office and it wasn't clear what happened. I think I lost a couple of years of my life. I was disappointed he lost the leader’s jersey because that had never happened to him before in his career. Usually when he grabs it, he keeps it. So that made me superstitious but everything went perfectly today.
"Well, we didn't win the stage but Alberto is in pink. I'm actually double happy because I brought Kiry (Kiryienka) into professional sport. I signed him from a small Italian team after finding him. I'd have preferred if Alberto had won but the wind changed and favoured the guys who started early. But that’s cycling."
Trash talking about Astana
Although his recent knee surgery will stop him riding in the mountains of the Giro d'Italia, Tinkov intends to stay on the race and is confident he will be celebrating in Milan on May 31. While Contador talked sportingly about Fabio Aru and the Astana team in his post-stage press conference, Tinkov did not hold back with some good-hearted trash talking.
"I'm here for the last week and so I hope he can keep the pink jersey all the way to Milan. There's a lot of climbing still to come, we're going to have to fight but we've got a strong team," he said.
"I know people are talking about the strength of the Astana team but they don't understand cycling. We can't ride all day and then be with Alberto with five guys, but of course Roman and Michael are there for him. Astana could try to drop him but they can't do it anyway. He's Alberto Contador. And you know Alberto; he might attack anyway. That's what makes him a great rider."