Oleg Tinkov blog: I think I’m a good substitution for Bjarne Riis

The Giro d’Italia is about to start and it’s one of my favourite moments of the season. I prefer the Giro d’Italia to the Tour de France for a few simple reasons: the food is better, the scenery is better and there’s less stress. The police are also nicer and let me ride on the race route. The gendarmes at the Tour stopped me and lots of other people riding last year which is a real pity. ASO wanted to help me but in France it’s all down to the police.

I’m coming out to the Giro d’Italia on Friday and will stay for the first week and the last week. I wanted to do it all and ride more but I have to have surgery on my knee. I’m basically having my meniscus cut out due to an old skiing injury. The good thing is that I get to spend the last week with the team, which is the week that matters.

The Giro is a big goal for the team because Alberto is targeting the double this season. I really think he’s able to do it but anything can happen in cycling, like it did last year at the Tour de France when he crashed. However normally he’s the strongest.

Second place for Alberto at the Giro wouldn’t be a great result for me. Second at the Tour would be different because Froome and Nibali will be there. But at the Giro d’Italia I don’t honestly see who can challenge him. If everything goes right, it shouldn’t be a problem to win the Giro… Hopefully. Of course we’ll be keeping an eye on people like Aru, Porte and Uran. But we know that Alberto is much stronger than them, on a level above.

It’ll be important to start strong and win the TTT on Saturday. There’s some strong teams like Orica, Movistar and Team Sky, so we’ll see. But this team is much stronger and more experienced than we had in the last Tour de France. We’ve got good riders for the flat stages, for the medium mountains and for the high mountains. Rogers, Basso and Tosatto are very experienced too. Rovny is the only Russian rider in the team, which is a pity but we don’t choose the team on nationality, it’s about the fitness and the level of the riders. We’re looking good. We’ve kept back Rafal Majka and Kišerlovski, who will be ready for the Tour.

A substitute for Riis

No other team owners go in the car like I do but I enjoy it and it’s why I bought the team. I think I’m a good substitution for Bjarne Riis.

I think people have now understood why he left the team. He didn’t actually do much. His role was to sit in the team car, decide tactics and give orders to the riders, to motivate them. He was not involved in the preparation of the riders and in the training. He was not involved in the management of the team either. That’s what I wanted him to do but he didn’t do it. That’s one of the reasons why we separated.

He was the owner when I bought the team but we ended up with two owners. But he was the ex-owner and had no specific role in the team for 18 months. That’s why I had to stop it. He was too expensive for doing nothing. I realised we didn’t need him. He hasn’t been in the team for two months now but things are okay. When you take somebody out and nothing changes, it means that they weren’t needed there. I do the same thing in my business.

Now I’ll be in the team car. I don’t think it will be easier for the riders. I don’t think I’ve got less charisma than Bjarne. I think I’m an okay substitute for him. I won’t be involved in race tactics, I won’t pick up the radio, that’s up to the sports directors. But being in the car will create pressure on the riders to perform. I think the more pressure there is on the riders, the better their results will be. They’re in the business to be under pressure. Like Lionel Messi was in the Champion’s League football match. He was under pressure and so scored twice and Barcelona won.

While at the Giro d’Italia, I’ll also be keeping my eye on the team riding the Tour of California. I understand that Peter Sagan will be riding but Peter is a difficult case. It seems he’s lost something.

It’s been many months that he hasn’t won big. It’s not about the Tinkoff-Saxo team because he didn’t win as much as expected even when he was at Cannondale. It’s not about Bobby Julich his coach now, it goes much deeper than that. He’s the one who needs to find out why and he’s the one who needs to change something and start winning again. I cannot do much.

Actually I’m the one who is trouble because I’m paying him a lot of money, paying him a big cheque and he’s not performing (laughs). That’s not good.

I hope he can start winning at the Tour of California. It’s a good chance for him. At the Tour de France we’ll have a different goal. We’re not expecting him to win a lot of stages because his role will be to help Alberto win the Tour de France. That’s his role in July.

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Oleg Tinkov created his business empire by selling jeans he bought at a training camp as a junior. He now owns the Tinkoff-Saxo team and is never afraid to speak his mind, be it about team leader Alberto Contador, Tour de France rivals Team Sky and especially about how professional cycling is managed.