Oleg Tinkov has revealed that the Tinkoff-Saxo team will make an announcement about the future of Bjarne Riis at 7:00pm CET on Sunday, a few hours after the Gent-Wevelgem race.
Tinkov made the announcement via Twitter on Saturday morning from Japan, where the Russian team owner is currently on holiday with his family.
“My dear @ tinkoff_saxo fans. Tomorrow @ 1900 CET Will Our Official Press Release Regarding the Best Sport Director.Wish Tomorrow # gentwevelgem” the tweet reads.
The Tinkoff-Saxo team refused to give any further details on what would be revealed, insisting it was focused on its busy racing programme in Belgium and Spain. Peter Sagan will lead Tinkoff-Saxo at Gent-Wevelgem, while Alberto Contador is fighting for a place on the podium at the Volta a Catalunya. Another squad is also in action at the Critérium International this weekend.
It is unclear if Riis’s contract as team manager will be terminated or if Riis and Tinkov have patched up their differences and will continue to work together. However on Friday Tinkov wrote on Twitter: “We're Super TEAM, and minus1 will not change nothing”.
The Tinkoff-Saxo team has denied that the decision to suspend Riis was due to a lack of results or for financial issues, with the tension and disagreement apparently due to a contrast in personalities. However the Russian team has won just two races so far this season, with Contador taking a stage at the Ruta del Sol and Peter Sagan winning stage six at Tirreno-Adriatico. Contador was only fifth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, while Sagan has landed lots of placing but finished fourth in Milan-San Remo and was only 30th in Friday’s E3 Harelbeke after being unable to respond to Geraint Thomas’s late attack.
There has been speculation about Riis’s future at the team he created and managed so successfully in recent years. He and Tinkov appeared to get on well in the initial months after the Russian businessman bought the team from Riis in the winter of 2013. However their relationships has reportedly deteriorated in recent months. Tinkov paid Riis a significant amount to buy the team and agreed to pay him a reported one million dollars per season for his role as team manager.
Tinkov was seen venting his anger with Riis and team CEO Stefano Feltrin before the start of stage two of Tirreno-Adriatico. He has also taken to Twitter, attacking the Danish media and Danish cycling fans after the fall out with Riis.
Lars Seier Christensen, the founder of second-sponsor Saxo Bank has traveled to Riis’s home in Lugano, Switzerland this week, reportedly to help resolve the disagreement between Riis and Tinkov. But Riis has not spoken about the dispute.
There has been speculation about Riis’s possible replacement at Tinkoff-Saxo. He official title is team manager but he has more of a technical role after selling the team to Tinkov. Italian Omar Piscina has been linked to the team. He was team manager of the Tinkoff Credit Systems Professional Continental team that Tinkov sponsored between 2006-2008 and had Tyler Hamilton as team leader.
Cyclingnews understands that Piscina worked on a project with the current Tinkoff-Saxo team during Tirreno-Adriatico. However it seems the team would hire a senior directeur sportif figure rather than a team manager if Riis’ contract was terminated.