Tinkoff Credit Systems is making a name for itself in the 90th Giro d'Italia; in the last four stages it has had one of its riders in the major escape, notably Pavel Brutt and Mikhail Ignatiev. The boys are riding for wins but also impressing the team owner who has been following the Giro.
Oleg Tinkov founded the team this year from its previous incarnation of Tinkoff Restaurants, a Spanish Continental Team. In fact, he raced a few races for the 2006 team and this year continues to ride. The 39 year-old has been spotted riding the first half of every Giro stage but does not plan on doing so today; "because I am a little tired," he said.
Tinkov is excited for his boys but is worried about their abilities to follow his orders. "They are not able to touch the brakes," he joked in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We will not have anyone in the third week. But they are champions and they reason like champions - they attack. They are blockheads but I like that way."
"I would like" to have the strongest team in the world, he continued. "But I have to find a strong sponsor, because my involvement cannot go over four million euro.
"Cycling is easier than football, if you invest 15 million for three or four years then you can have the best squad. But cycling is different than football in that it does not generate income; no direct TV, little merchandising and no market. I am not able to sell Ignatiev for four million and finance the entire season.
"It is needed to have one sponsor who is passionate like me. From a business point of view this is one of the stupidest investments of my life," he joked.
Tinkov recalled one of his earlier investments, before he became so rich through the beer and restaurant industry. "In 1988 [Mikhail] Gorbachev came for a visit in Italy with his wife Raissa. She had on this watch, with the hands in the shape of arrows, a refined military version that you could buy in shops in Saint Petersburg for two dollars.
"The Italian tourists became mad for these watches; 'Raisska, Raisska,' they would call them. It would frighten you to know who many of those Raisska watches I bought for two dollars and resold, only a few minutes later, for 100 dollars."
If the trend continues, Tinkov will ride another eighty kilometres this morning and we will see another attack by Pavel Brutt. Or maybe his Raisska will indicate a time for a change, and we could see Daniele Contrini or Salvatore Commesso go out for a long attack as the roads head north from Rome to Spoleto.