I've spent the last few days before the Tour de France in St. Petersburg, enjoying the white nights but I'm going to be heading to the Tour de France later this week to join the Tinkoff-Saxo team. I think it's going to be a great Tour de France this year even if the Tour is very stressful. It's the biggest race of the season and so there are a lot of good and bad emotions, a lot of tension. That's why I prefer the Giro d'Italia, it feels much more a family. The Tour is a huge beast and that's also why it's the biggest annual sporting event in the world.
I spoke to Alberto the other day on the telephone and he was in a good mood, in good shape and ready for the Tour.
He was obviously tired after the Giro but he's recovering well. As I've said many times, it's not fair that he has to compete against fresh riders who are only doing the Tour de France, like Froome and Quintana, but we have what we have. I'm confident he can do well anyway and is on the way to the double. I think he's the strongest of the big four, I think he's the most experienced of the big four and has won more Grand Tours than all the others combined. I think his experience will pay off. I know that people are big-ing up Quintana but I think Froome will be his big rival. I think they will fight it out for the yellow jersey in the mountains.
Of course the first part of the route is difficult and it will perhaps end somebody's overall hopes. But I don't think it'll happen to Alberto. He paid a big price last year I don't believe we'll have the same bad karma again. I hope we used up all our bad luck and that we're ready to do well.
It'll be exciting for me if Alberto wins because it'll be a third consecutive Grand Tour win for him and for my team. I don't know how many riders have won three consecutive Grand Tours like that: Vuelta, Giro and then Tour de France. It will be special.
Sagan, the green jersey and his future at Tinkoff-Saxo
There's been a lot of speculation about Peter Sagan and if he can target the green points jersey again this year while we also target the yellow jersey with Alberto.
The truth is that it's not a simple goal to manage. We can all remember the Wiggins-Cavendish soap opera in 2012 and we don't want that in our team. We have a different atmosphere and discipline, so we might only go for one jersey and the yellow jersey is definitely the first goal. Peter knows that. Perhaps he can win the green jersey while helping Alberto win yellow, that would be the best outcome. We'll have a meeting just before the start with Peter, Alberto, myself and the directeur sportif Sean Yates and Steven De Jongh. We'll sit down and talk eye to eye and decide our plans. It won't be a problem.
I saw some reports about my relation with Peter after my last blog with Cyclingnews but we spent some time together at the Tour de Suisse and talked. It was suggested that he wasn't happy and might leave team before the end of his contract. The truth is that we both have a contract that we have to respect but everything is possible. We'll see what happens after the Tour de France.
It's going to be interesting to see what kind of atmosphere there is at the Tour after the recent arguments about the planned reforms for 2017 and beyond. I've seen that’s there another kind of battle brewing between the Tour organiser ASO, the UCI and the teams. It's a kind of deja vu for me, to use the appropriate French word, because sadly it's not the first time it has happened.
Everyone seems to understand that we need to change cycling's business model to make the sport better for everyone and I just hope that this time the teams, and especially the Velon teams, will play a positive role in finding a solution with ASO, so that there's something in it for the teams. I still believe that the Tour de France and other race organisers have to incentivize the teams by paying them because we are totally dependent on sponsorship and that business model is no longer sustainable.
I hope that more teams will join Velon, so that the teams are more united. I don't understand why teams like Katusha, Astana and even the French teams aren't part of Velon. They don't have any logical or business reason not to be part of Velon. Unfortunately there's still the atmosphere that everybody has to compete against each other.
I obviously understand that ASO is powerful because it has the Tour de France but I believe that the teams have more power, especially when they come together like with Velon. If the teams decide to come up with an ultimatum and not go to the Tour, what is ASO going to do? They can't do anything.
I'm ready to boycott the 2016 Tour de France to make them understand that things have to change. It's not such a big deal. Similar things happen in other sports, players have gone on strike in the NBA or the NHL hockey league. I can afford not to go to the Tour de France for a year if all the teams agree not to go too. Of course it would hurt the fans in the short term but it benefits the sport as a whole in the long term. Otherwise we will continue to struggle. I really hope that ASO can understand that.
According to my information, many of the teams in the peloton are struggling financially more and more because they have less and less budget but the stars riders are requesting bigger and bigger salaries. That is why change is desperately needed. Agents are more involved now and work with 90% of the riders, so they're pushing up the prices. I don't think some teams can't even respect their budgets for the year and are struggling quarter to quarter to pay the bills. It seems they're signing riders in the hope they will have a sponsor for 2016.
Fortunately it's not a problem because my team's budget, in contrast to other teams, is 100% sure for next year. As usual, we're going to meet with Saxo Bank at the Tour de France and decide things with them for 2016. If they carry on as a second sponsor it'll be nice but if they stop it'll be nice too and we can have a nice big Tinkoff logo on the chest. Of course we'd be happy to share our success with another sponsor, I'm not greedy, but it has to be for serious money. I won't sacrifice the value of my title sponsorship just for one or two million, it needs to be a real big cheque, than we can work well together.
Kreuziger and Riis
I know people want to know what I think about Bjarne Riis and Roman Kreuziger after the Anti-Doping Denmark report and the decision by the UCI to drop their appeal to case about Roman's Biological Passport.
I'm obviously happy that Roman won his case against the UCI. Now I really want to sue those stupid people and we're looking into how to do it. They created a mess, a lot of mess. They damaged the name of my team and my brand but then suddenly they've dropped the case. We can't just let it go like that. Think about it. I paid Roman a lot of money but couldn't use in him last year's Tour de France. They have to be responsible for the damage they've done.
To be honest I don't really want to talk about Bjarne because for me there's no news there. Where's the news? We all know that in that era a lot of people doped and so I don't understand why the Danish Federation went so far back. I don't see anything new there nor many ideas for the future.