By Gregor Brown
Oleg Tinkov will likely step down from his role as Team Katusha president before the start of the new year. The Russian businessman who started Team Tinkoff three years ago is focusing his energy on his other businesses.
"I am passing it over to the right people at the right time. Especially now with the market, the financial situation requires me to be in the office full time," said Tinkov to Cyclingnews.
Tinkov turned his Continental Team into a well-established Professional Continental Team, Tinkoff Credit Systems, at the end of 2006. Through the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the Italian-based team gained numerous victories, including two stages in the Giro d'Italia. The team announced mid-way through this season that it would expand under new name Team Katusha.
"I am proud I have done it for three years. I ran Tinkoff Restaurants and Tinkoff Credit Systems. ... I have built a very solid team and I am glad my structure will be used as one of the best structures in the world – the Katusha team – which will basically be a Russian team. I still believe Russia deserves a serious and solid team."
The money and time are too much for Tinkov, who works in Moscow. He needs to devote more time to his companies due to a hard financial market.
"I was not able to build it all by myself because it was too expensive. ... Partly I am tired and partly it is business dictated. It is a big team, so I don't really want to be involved there.
"I am still the president of the team, legally, but I am not in an operation role right now. ... It is just a title – I don't care about titles."
Team Katusha has the backing of the Russian Global Cycling Project, funded by its main sponsors Gazprom, Itera and Rostechnologii. The team has a budget of 15 to 20 million euro. Its 2009 signings include Australian Robbie McEwen, Belgian Gert Steegmans, Italian Filippo Pozzato, Russians Vladimir Karpets and Alexandre Botcharov.