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Oleg Tinkov: Chapeau to Team Sky but they’re going to kill the business

The Tour de France is over for another year and to be honest I’m not satisfied with the final result, even if we won the green points jersey with Peter and Alberto fought all the way to Paris to finish fifth.

Of course we still celebrated and I brought some of my Russian people to Paris for a VIP trip and a special dinner at the Tour de Argent restaurant on Saturday night. That meant I left Alpe d’Huez by helicopter and didn’t get a chance to say hello to my big fan Marc Madiot. We were supposed to sleep in the same hotel but it didn’t happen, so the first date of our Bromance will have to be for another time.

The end of the Tour is the right moment to look back and analyse things a little. I think it’s actually been a very interesting Tour de France. I’m happy that none of the big-name contenders crashed out because of stupid circumstances like the wind, cobbles or crashes but I’m also disappointed that the favourites didn’t start the race at the same level.

I think I’ve been proven right that the top riders need to compete against each other in the biggest races to make racing fair. Alberto started the Tour de France tired after winning the Giro d’Italia, while everyone else was fresh. If Froome, Quintana, Contador and Nibali had done the Giro d’Italia, then this would have been a very different and much better Tour de France.

We’ve seen from our data that Alberto did the Pra-Loup climb in the same time as Froome despite his crash. That gives us hope for the future and we’ll definitely be back next year. 2016 is Contador’s last season and we want him to win. We can’t say we’ll learn from our mistakes because we knew that riding the Giro and the Tour would be risky. In 2016 we will be back at the Tour de France with the aim of winning it. It should be fun. Froome will be no doubt be good again and Quintana is getting better and better.

It was nice that Peter (Sagan) rode so well but I’ve actually got mixed emotions about his Tour de France. We all know that cycling is about winning and there’s far less value to second and third places, even if that’s something that should change. Sagan was second five times and countless times in the top five but he hasn’t won a stage. It would have been good for his morale to win. He was no doubt the strongest guy in the Tour; we saw that by his attacking to dominate the points jersey. He was also the most popular rider in the race according to the Tour statistics. That’s great from marketing point of view. I just wish he’d won at least once.

In praise of Team Sky

I’m not afraid to say that Team Sky deserved to win the Tour with the Froominator, that’s clear to see and we can only say ‘chapeau’ as they say in France. However I’ve got to point out that their strength might not be good for the sport.

If I could tell you who they are about to sign for 2016, you’d realise that they’re going to kill the business.

Their strength in not actually the money, as other people have said. We have similar budgets; we spend 27 million Euro, while they have about 33 million Euro. The fundamental difference between Team Sky and other teams is that they have a long-term project. They’ve got a minimum of a five-year plan, if not even ten years thanks to a commitment from Murdoch’s empire.

The thing Dave Brailsford is doing so well is planning for the future. He’s investing in new riders but also looking for new technology that will help his team. Most team, including us, live almost year to year. When you have a short-term project, you don’t invest for the future, you don’t invest in young rider who might not win for a few years. It’s all about survival. It would be the same in the business world. There’s no chance for a team with a one-year plan to fight against another that can plan for five or ten years ahead.

The only thing that will stop Team Sky dominating the sport for years to come is if we change the business model of the sport and that’s what I’m trying to do. We need more income for the teams. At the moment there’s a clear chance that the Europcar team will disappear at the end of the season. I’ve heard that BMC is thinking of stopping and even Katusha is considering its future in the peloton.

For sure I’ll be involved in the team in 2016 but I don’t know about 2017 yet. Maybe yes, maybe not. I think I’ll have spent 40 million from my own pocket on the team so far. Probably only Andy Rihs has spent more than me. But I’m not getting anything in return or getting any help to carry the costs and that’s not right. Maybe when I get to 50 million, perhaps I’ll say ‘that’s enough’ and so maybe 2016 is my last year. We’ll see if we can change the sport.

I spoke to Yann Le Moenner on the rest day in Gap. He’s the real boss of the Tour de France, not that Prudhomme guy. Yann is actually a great guy. He’s smart and a businessman too. He agrees with a lot the things I’ve said and he knows we have to change the sport. So I think there will be changes. There are going to be some meeting soon with team owners, race organisers and also the Velon teams. La Moenner knows that ASO will be in trouble if Velon gets stronger and includes more teams.

We’ll see what happens but hopefully the Tour de France will be a great race in 2016 and beyond. We can only say: Vive le Tour!

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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.