Ever since Tinkoff-Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov openly expressed his dissatisfaction with Peter Sagan's performance, even going so far as saying he would cut his salary if he could find a legal way to do it, the rumor mill has been awash with chatter that Sagan might leave the team. Today, his agent Giovanni Lombardi squashed those speculations, stating emphatically that Sagan will respect his contract, which runs through 2017.
Tuttobici today said Etixx-Quickstep manager Patrick Lefevere, who is still deciding whether to keep several big name riders whose contracts end this year, including Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish and world champion Michal Kwiatkowski, is interested in Sagan. Such a move would keep Sagan on Specialized, and would help bolster the squad's Classics team, but Lombardi denied Sagan would break his contract.
"Peter is a rider of great interest to the market, I know this and can only welcome it, but one thing is certain: Peter has a contract that expires at the end of 2017 and we wants to absolutely respect this agreement until the end," Lombardi said to Tuttobici after its initial report.
"Does it look like he is suffering at the Tour de Suisse, not supported by a team that does not believe in him? ... Believe me, there were many who wanted Sagan, but Oleg Tinkov was the fastest to sign him. Unless they have good reason, Peter will not leave."
Tinkov paid a reported €4 million ($4.5 million) per season to sign Sagan, but then had to wait impatiently until mid-March to see the rider take his first win of the year in Tirreno-Adriatico. Sagan's Classics campaign fell somewhat flat, and he just missed the podium in Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.
Tinkov wrote in his Cyclingnews blog in May that Sagan seemed to have "lost something", and needed to start winning. Even with Sagan claiming an impressive time trial and overall victory at the Tour of California, Tinkov said he would renegotiate Sagan's salary if he could.
The UCI rules prohibit any transfers between WorldTour teams outside of the August 1-15 window, and such moves during that time frame are rare. Last year Rohan Dennis left Garmin to join BMC during the transfer period. Contracts cannot be signed for the 2016 season until August 1.