After formally parting company with Bjarne Riis last week, the Tinkoff-Saxo team has promoted Steven de Jongh to the position of head of the team’s sport directors and announced that general manager Stefano Feltrin will now also have an input into the team’s sporting decisions.
In a statement released on Friday morning, Tinkoff-Saxo said that the new structure, without a team manager at the head of the pyramid, was part of the “vision” of owner Oleg Tinkov.
“In order to remain at the top of the game, we need to constantly improve. We simply cannot stand still and see our competition reach our level. For that reason, we are implementing a management structure where the notion of Team Manager doesn't exist,” Feltrin said. “As Oleg Tinkov stated, that was the old way of thinking and it is no longer viable.”
Feltrin did not specify his precise role in the team’s sporting activities, though he noted that he and De Jongh would now split the duties that were carried out by Riis.
“Steven has a proven track record and we think he is the right person to become the head of that group [of sports directors], while maintaining his day-to-day activities. I will also have a more active role in the sports operations of the team, sharing with Steven the workload Bjarne Riis had,” Feltrin said.
De Jongh was hired by Riis ahead of the 2013 season, shortly after he left Team Sky as a consequence of its so-called zero-tolerance anti-doping policy. De Jongh confessed to doping during his career as a rider. He was part of the TVM team during the 1998 Tour de France. He later rode for Quickstep.
In 2014, De Jongh was delegated to work more closely with Alberto Contador, and that union saw a return to form for the Spaniard, who landed the Vuelta a España and Tirreno-Adriatico.
“We will not rush and turn everything upside down right now. That would not be wise at this stage,” De Jongh said. “We will stick to the program we have and thoroughly assess our strengths and weaknesses. We will keep what works and try to improve what doesn't.”
De Jongh confirmed that he will continue to be Contador’s point man and he will be Tinkoff-Saxo’s directeur sportif at the Tour de France, alongside Sean Yates – another former Team Sky directeur sportif who also left the team in the Autumn of 2012.
“I have been in charge of Alberto for the last year and I will continue to do so this season as well. Oleg Tinkov wanted me to be the head Sport Director at the Giro and Tour, where I will have the expert backup from Sean Yates, so that bodes well with the new structure we have in place,” De Jongh said, who also named Peter Sagan’s ongoing Classics campaign as another priority.
“Peter Sagan has two big races ahead, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and we will focus on improving his performance, following the difficult second part of the season he had last year.”
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