An interview with Oleg Tinkoff

Oleg Tinkoff

Oleg Tinkoff (Image credit: Sergey Kurdyukov)

Minding his own business

One of Russia's best-known businessmen, Oleg Tinkoff, is now owner and rider in the former Soviet country's newest professional cycling team. Sponsored by the restaurant chain he made famous, this highly driven Siberian loves a big challenge, especially one very close to his heart, and as Sergey Kurdyukov finds out, he's determined to make it a success.

The man at the centre of Russia's newest cycling team stands apart from others. The idea of 'a man apart' was the central theme of a Tinkoff beer advertising campaign, with the slogan “He’s the only one”. It worked perfectly in Russia, a place used to uniformity rather than this sort of philosophy.

But it wasn't just an ad gimmick, it’s a fact of life for Oleg Tinkov, who has his own way of doing just about everything, and he doesn't care whether it’s proper for a wealthy businessmen to be as thin as a rake or to put 180km in his legs on a daily basis. He’s not the type of guy to pose for a reason, which has been all too common in the post-Soviet era; he’s a man of action, a ranger if you like, who constantly needs a fresh dose of adrenaline to keep him going.

Every time he feels the things go too smoothly and life becomes a sniff dull, he’s more likely to go for a fresh start. In this case it meant selling his thriving business and opening up a new page.

You’d ask where cycling comes in here. For Tinkov cycling is one thing that has never changed in his life. It doesn't matter that for almost 20 years he hadn't thrown his leg over a bike; his passion for cycling can be compared to an early teenage love who flew away with her parents to some distant country only to come across the boy, grown up into a man, at a connection airport after time had passed, finding out that thoughts of her have never left his head.

For Tinkoff that romance has been rekindled with the development of a team sponsored by the Tinkoff chain of restaurants. And a strange twist of the tale he'll be the first team manager/owner to ride races with his young charges, most of whom could be his sons. It's a reflection of the discipline Tinkoff possesses that he's ridden himself into shape to ride with some of Russia's most talented young riders - no small task at all.

In true Tinkoff style, our interview wasn't formal; heading out on a training ride, Tinkoff's plan was to keep his heart rate down to a maximum of 120 beats per minute. On the Olympic Krylatskoye circuit it’s much easier to push it up to 200 in a wild attempt to try and climb one of too many walls on the course. The way to keep this tendency under control was to discuss various subjects, from Tinkoff's business to his cycling ambitions. And there was a little instruction from his friend Viatcheslav Ekimov, of course.

Click here for the full interview

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