Movistar and Sky respond to Tinkov challenge

Oleg Tinkov laid down the gauntlet to his fellow team bosses on Monday when he offered to pay the top four stage racers €1 million to take on all three of the Grand Tours in 2015. On Wednesday, the Tinkoff-Saxo boss gave his opposite numbers a gentle ribbing with a simple tweet, “don’t be chiken.” Tinkov is known for his outlandish proclamations to the media and on his own twitter feed, but the laying down of a financial incentive seems to have given the idea some traction.

Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué told Spanish website that he would consider the challenge. “At the moment, I consider it to be a good idea and respectable, and in any case we will analyse it calmly,” he told them. “Of course I'll talk to him. You have to listen to all ideas, even if they sound weird.”

However, Unzué said that more than money was needed to make the riders take on the challenge. “I think that it shouldn’t exclusively be attractive because of the money, there has to be other things also. Above all, the sporting challenge must be the priority,” he said. “But you have to really consider whether the sporting challenge is sufficiently attractive as a proposition from Mr Tinkov to go forward.”

Even Sky boss Dave Brailsford has come forth to lend his opinion on the challenge. "Seeing the best riders slug it out across the season at key races is what everybody would wants to see," he told the BBC. "From a performance point of view, it's quite a serious undertaking but, from a conceptual point of view, from a fan's point of view, from a sporting point of view, I think it's got a lot of merit."

Unzué has experience in winning multiple Grand Tours in a season with Miguel Indurain becoming only the sixth rider to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year (1992 & 1993). More recently his team took victory with Nairo Quintana at the Giro d’Italia. The Colombian was on course to add the Vuelta to his burgeoning palmarès before he crashed out with a broken scapula. Unzué accepts that a challenge such as this requires a lot of sacrifices.

“It’s about giving up an important part of the season prior to it. I imagine that would be everything, to re-programme and change your habits. I don’t think that it would be something difficult to realise, to race all three,” he explained. “The question is if all the big racers are able to compete in all three Grand Tours. Perhaps physically it should be possible but the capacity of concentration, three months practically at 120%. It seems very difficult, the mental part more than the physical.

“At best we can discover that someone can win a tour, but only be at 100 per cent in one of them and then the rest are impossible, or that you can do two well and another regular, or do all three well. In this there are no references, so until it is done, and one day it will happen, then we will have our first data.”

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