Alberto Contador has responded to the personal attack made against him by his former boss Oleg Tinkov, calling the Russian out for a lack of respect and arguing that the Tinkoff team went downhill after he fired general manager Bjarne Riis.
Referring to Tinkov’s grievance in a farewell interview with Cycingnews in October that the Spaniard is a "sad person" who "never really wants to drink champagne", Contador, speaking on Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, said: "I drink champagne with my friends – not with him."
Shortly after the turn of the year, Contador posted a video on social media in which he ripped of his shirt to reveal his new Trek-Segafredo kit for the first time, and toasted his new team with a glass of fizz. In the Cadena Ser interview he insisted it wasn’t a light-hearted dig at his former boss, and joked that in any case it was cava - not champagne.
Tinkov closed his team at the end of last season, arguing that the structure and business model of the sport was a "mess" in his interview with Cyclingnews, in which he also came out with the hard-hitting comments on Contador.
"I don't have a relationship with him," he said. "I respect him as a rider for his past but as a person he's never really appealed to me. I don't like him... Personally I think Alberto should stop riding because he's not as strong anymore. I think he's going to be like a limping duck. He's going to look stupid."
"The guys who are always serious are always boring," he added, making the champagne complaint. "They can fuck off. They're boring guys, they have a terrible life."
Contador said he didn’t want to be drawn into a war of words with Tinkov but did nevertheless stick up for himself and stand his ground with a calm but impactful response.
"This type of thing, if it came from someone who you feel something for or you care about, then maybe it affects you. In my case, it didn’t affect me at all," he said of Tinkov’s comments.
"At the end of the day, I was taught a set of values, one of them being respect, which is something we always owe to other people. There are those who don’t see it that way, but that’s how I see it."
Contador explained that his problems with Tinkov began when he fired team manager Bjarne Riis in 2015.
Riis had been one of the founders of the team back in 1999 but Tinkov, having invested in the team in 2012 and then purchased it from Riis in 2013, removed the Dane during the 2015 season.
"The main problem started when I signed my contract renewal, and soon after they got rid of Bjarne Riis – they guy who founded the team and was the reason I came to the team in the first place," said Contador.
"I knew that with him leaving everything would change, and that’s how it turned out. There was no leader, no one who new how to manage a group of 70 people. You can come along with lots of money but you need to have a set of skills to manage well – Riis had that, Tinkov didn’t."
Contador revealed he hasn’t heard from Tinkov since they parted ways, and is now focused on his future with Trek-Segafredo.
"It was a part of my sporting career - fortunately it’s over now and that’s it. Now I have new challenges ahead, and I’m not going to waste energy responding to him. We haven’t seen each other since. He’s someone who doesn’t inspire fondness, or anything at all really, in me. He is someone who has a lot of money and he was able to buy a team, but he didn't know how to run it."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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