A team leader injured and on his knees, teammates disobeying tactics, communication problems, a team manager clashing with riders and a broken down team bus. Despite a stage win and stint in yellow for Peter Sagan, the Tinkoff team's Tour de France was beginning to unravel in a major way on stage 5 and the race hasn't even reached the Pyrenees.
The tactics for the stage to Le Lioran were clear – keep Alberto Contador in contention for as long as possible and surround him with teammates if and when Movistar went on the offensive, in the hope that the Spaniard could survive without losing time.
The first half of the plan worked well enough. The Russian team sent Rafal Majka up the road in the break, believing that the Pole could claim the stage win. They knew that Sagan would struggle – as he did – when the racing truly kicked off on the climbs.
However, the Tinkoff team could not predict what happened next with Robert Kiserlovski cracking so early and then Roman Kreuziger failing to wait for Contador when the Spaniard lost ground after Romain Bardet's acceleration on the final climb. In the end, the time gaps between Contador and his main rivals were not race-defining but the sight of Contador on his own exposed the cracks that existed within the team for some time.
"I think what you saw on television wasn't what our tactics were," Steven de Jongh told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 6.
"We gave orders four times from the team car early on for Roman and things didn't go to plan. Rafal didn't have to wait for us because the situation was under control.
"I spoke with Roman after the race and he said he thought that Alberto was on his wheel with 1.5km to go. I said, 'Roman when I say something in the race, it's with a cause.' That's my statement and I want to keep it short. If you want to ask more then you need to ask Roman."
Kreuziger, like the majority of the Tinkoff team, is riding for his futures, with the team set to disband at the end of the year. The Czech rider quickly distanced himself from the claims that he was riding for himself in order to help his contract situation.
"There's not really a story," Kreuziger told Cyclingnews. "We had some bad communication. I said at the Dauphine that we have to work on that, and that's everything. We need to speak more in the races so that things are clearer. That’s all I can say. I spoke to Alberto and he's a big champion. There's no problem between us."
Cyclingnews understands that Contador is still negotiating with several teams for 2017. His agent and brother met with Trek Segafredo after the Dauphine but the parties have not as yet agreed terms. Kreuziger is not part of the entourage Contador is looking to bring with him to a new set-up.
At the Dauphine, Cyclingnews understands, tempers flared as team owner Oleg Tinkov argued with one high profile rider over tactics and work rate.
Sean Yates, who is a director on the team, and who famously ordered Chris Froome to wait for Bradley Wiggins during his Team Sky days in 2012, admitted that the uncertainly over riders' futures was an inevitable feature of the race. He told Cyclingnews that such attitudes within the Tinkoff team would not be tolerated and, like De Jongh, he defended Majka's ride.
"The situation isn't helpful and could lead to a situation where people think of themselves more than they would otherwise,” Yates said when asked about the contract situation and riders looking out for themselves. "That's natural but it's been dealt with."
"The obvious thing that stuck out is that we had two guys in the front group, Alberto and Roman, and Roman didn't wait. I wouldn't say that it was a miscommunication. To me it's obvious what should have happened but that's been talked about.
"From an outside perspective it might seem like a disaster but we won a stage, and have had yellow."
Tinkoff aren't quite reaching disaster status but one more bad day for Contador, and De Jongh and Yates will have a tough time keeping the rest of the riders in check.
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