A report that Oleg Tinkov has agreed to purchase Riis Cycling, the holding company behind the Saxo Bank team, has been greeted cautiously by Alberto Contador and his entourage.
On Sunday, Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Bjarne Riis had agreed to sell Riis Cycling to Tinkov for €7 million, just three months after it had been announced that Tinkoff Bank would no longer be a co-sponsor in 2014.
Both Saxo Bank and Tinkov have denied that any deal has been done, although Cyclingnews understands that the Russian is still in talks with Riis and several other teams for 2014. Tinkov’s recent negotiations to take a controlling interest in the Cannondale team ultimately came to nothing.
Tinkov’s public criticism of Alberto Contador’s Tour de France performance precipitated his break with the Saxo Bank team in August of this year, and the Spaniard preferred not to discuss the prospect of riding a team owned by Tinkov. Contador is contracted to Riis Cycling for the next two seasons.
“It’s not the moment to talk about it,” Contador told Gazzetta dello Sport via text message, while a spokesman for Contador told Biciciclismo that the rider was not aware of the possible sale of the team.
“The story has nothing to do with the facts. There is no agreement, and if there was, it would be very new,” he said. “At this point, we don’t know anything about it, we’re left just with the denials of both parties in the press."
In spite of the denials of Saxo Bank and Tinkov, Monday’s edition of Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Riis signed off on the sale of the team on Friday for a sum just under €7 million, and that he would then earn almost €1 million a season in a management role. The team would reportedly operate with a budget of €11 and 13 million per season.
Reports of Riis’ possible sale of his team follow recent claims from Michael Rasmussen that the Dane was fully aware of the doping of riders on his then CSC team in 2001 and 2002.
Saxo Bank issued a statement in support of Riis following Rasmussen's revelations, which are outlined in his newly-published autobiography. Last month, the Danish bank announced that it was stepping up its sponsorship of Riis' team in order to ensure its survival following Tinkoff's withdrawal as co-sponsor.