Oleg Tinkov is convinced that Peter Sagan can win his first major Classic after building a strong team to support the talented Slovakian in 2015 when he begins racing with Tinkoff-Saxo.
The Russian teased his follows on Twitter about Sagan's possible arrival before it was official, but revealed to Cyclingnews that spending a huge sum to sign Sagan is part of a clear plan to become the most successful team in professional cycling by 2016.
"He's a great athlete, a nice person and has the biggest marketing value in the sport," Tinkov told Cyclingnews, explaining why he outbid rivals teams to secure Sagan's signature for the next three season.
"Contador remains our team captain because he's our Grand Tour team leader, but Peter has huge charisma too. Of course he needs to win the Classics and win his first monument Classic, because he's never won one. But I'm sure he'll win with our team. Everybody saw what happened with Peter this spring. He lost a lot of races because the team wasn't strong enough. Our team is much stronger and we can help him a lot. With the other riders we're signing, we can play the game, play the cards with two great riders."
Reports in European media have indicated that Sagan will be paid somewhere between 3.5 and 4.4 million a season.
"The numbers I've seen in the media are just crazy money but of course the best riders don't come cheap," Tinkov acknowledged.
"Nothing is cheap if it's good. I'm modest, I don’t have a fancy villa but I'm ready to pay to have the best riders in my team. I'm convinced it’s a good deal for Peter and for us. We've not only got a great rider, we've connected with an army of great fans and we've secured a lot of marketing opportunities. In fact we've leveraged some excellent technical sponsors which we will announce soon."
Tinkov and the Tinkoff-Saxo team has several other rider signings planned. The team is expected to make more announcements in coming week with Edvald Boasson Hagen, Ivan Basso reported as possible arrivals. It seems that Nicolas Roche could leave the team, with Team Sky apparently keen to sign the Irishman.
"It's strange because we have three or four guys from Team Sky who are coming to us," Tinkov hinted mischievously.
"It seems like we're on an opposite trajectory. We're going up and they're going down. So if I were him, I wouldn't jump ship. But it's his decision. He's Irish and so maybe he feels better on an Anglo-Saxon team."
Data indicates Contador would have won the Tour by three minutes
Alberto Contador is expected to target the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España in 2015, with Rafal Majka likely to return to the Giro d'Italia.
Tinkov is convinced that Contador can still win Grand Tours despite turning 32 in December. Indeed the Russian team owner believes he would have won this year's Tour de France by three minutes if he had not crashed and fractured his tibia during stage 10.
"Nibali is a great campione, I like him as a person and as a rider. He deserved to win the 2014 Tour de France but Froome and Alberto weren't there…" Tinkov said.
"Now cycling is all about numbers and big data. Watts per kilogramme and stuff. We know Rafal's numbers, we know Nibali's numbers more or less because they raced together and we know Alberto's numbers. With the numbers that we have, we believe Alberto would have been three minutes ahead. Of course it's all virtual and so the debate goes nowhere, but we believe Alberto would have won and won quite easily."
Tinkov was in the Tinkoff-Saxo team car when Contador crashed out of the Tour de France and saw his chances of a victory disappear.
"It taught me that nothing comes easy. It would have been nice to have bought the team in December, win the Tour de France in July and to be kings. But cycling is not easy," he said.
"It was one of the hardest times in my life because when you invest so much money, so much energy and so much dedication, then all of a sudden, a single rider crashes and it's gone. It was a huge shock and it was a huge blow. In a way we lost the season but we fought back nicely and I'm proud of the guys."
The arrival of Peter Sagan and other riders to boost the Grand Tour squads in support of Contador and Majka are just the first phase of changes that Tinkov wants to bring to his team. During his long spells at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, he has talked in detail with team manager Bjarne Riis and CEO Stefan Feltrin.
As well as new riders, Tinkov also wants to revolutionise the team staff at Tinkoff-Saxo to improve the coaching, training and performance of his riders.
"My goal is not to create the best team in the world. That's easy, anyone can be the best team in the world if you have the money and just buy the riders. My goal is to build a new, modern team, based on new technologies, new nutrition programmes, new recovery programmes, new training methods, and data coaching," Tinkov said.
"We've signed some of the best coaches in the sport and some of the best trainers from other sports. Our team will be strong not only because of the riders but because we'll have a new generation of directeurs sportif who know how to work with data and watts."
Tinkov admitted that he is building his team 'on the shoulders of Team Sky', after seeing how the British team dominated stage racing in recent years.
"Dave Brailsford is a very talented manager. I've only met him once and so can't really judge him, but I respect him and what he's done," Tinkov said.
"Team Sky is a very good team. Of course they've made mistakes too. I'm not going to tell you because otherwise they will change and I don’t want them to change quickly. I want us to move ahead of them."
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