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Tinkoff-Saxo calls for Paris meeting about the Grand Tour triple challenge

The Tinkoff-Saxo team hopes that the leading teams, Grand Tour organisers and the UCI can meet up in Paris next week to further discuss the proposed Grand Tour triple challenge and perhaps lay out a road map that will see the biggest names in the sport go head to head in three Grand Tours each season.

Last week, team owner Oleg Tinkov told Cyclingnews he was ready to offer a €1 million incentive, funded by his Tinkoff Bank, if Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Chris Froome (Team Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) agree to ride the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España in 2015.

The provocative idea sparked huge debate and reaction. Nibali tweeted that he was against the idea, suggesting that Tinkov should spend his million on a Under 23 development team. However both Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzué and Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford seemed open to discussing the idea, realising that having the biggest riders in the sport competing head to head could make professional cycling more interesting for the fans and more appetizing to sponsors, the media and broadcasters.

Tinkoff-Saxo CEO Stefano Feltrin - who first came up with the idea during the summer - revealed to Cyclingnews that he talked to rival teams during the Vuelta a España about the idea and in July he had already met with Yann Le Moenner, the managing director ASO, the organiser of the Tour and Vuelta.

Feltrin now wants to involve the UCI as part of the ongoing restructuring of professional cycling due to come into force in 2017. He understands that the biggest problem is ensuring that it is physiologically possible for riders to race three Grand Tours in the same season. Feltrin is open to perhaps reducing the length of Grand Tours to below 3000km, down from the current average of 3500km. Shorter stages and innovative stages such as criteriums would give riders more time to recover during each Grand Tour and so perhaps remove the need to cut some of the Grand Tours to less than three weeks.

“This isn’t a joke or a publicity stunt. We are very serious about it and we feel it is a proposal that will help cycling move forward,” Feltrin said in a statement on the Tinkoff-Saxo website.

“We first approached the other teams during the recent Vuelta and we are encouraged by the recent positive reaction to our idea. We look forward to further discussing it with the key stakeholders.”

Feltrin told Cyclingnews: “We could meet up after the Tour de France presentation in Paris next week and talk about it. I think it could be good to start on a road map that would to lead making it happen. Perhaps at first we could start with riders committing to two Grand Tours in 2015 and move forward from there.

“More and more people are realizing that professional cycling has to evolve and change if it is to to grow and generate more income for everyone involved. Even ASO has understood this. If we want the sport to grow, we should all be innovative and creative, not conservative. There's no harm in coming up with new ideas and initiatives and talking about them together.”

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