After two weeks of toting his Grand Tour challenge and taunting his fellow team owners, Oleg Tinkov admits that it is unlikely to happen in 2015. The Tinkoff-Saxo team owner says that an attempt at the illusive Giro-Tour double may be a more realistic goal in the short-term.
“I think it would be a huge victory if next year all four of them would start the Giro and Tour double,” Tinkov told Sky Sports News. “Alberto Contador has already confirmed, so why don’t Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali join him? That would be good. Let’s start with the double this year and see how it evolves.
“For me, the sooner it happens the better it is. For the next year it may be hard.”
Contador announced his intention to tackle the Giro-Tour double, for the second time in his career, earlier this month, sparking Tinkov to challenge the Spaniard’s rivals to attempt all three Grand Tours for the princely reward of €1 million. Few riders have ever targeted the general classification in all three races during a single season, but Tinkov believes it is not beyond the top riders to do so.
“It’s hard but they are getting a lot of money, those guys. They get a big pay cheque. They are paid almost like good football players. They have a good salary and they have to work for that salary,” he said.
In another interview published in L’Équipe on Friday, Tinkov recalled how he floated the idea of the Grand Tour challenge to Chris Froome during the Vuelta.
“On the last day, I was at the foot of the podium and I spoke about it with Chris Froome. He replied: ‘Everything has its price…’ You know, the Anglo-Saxons work like that. That’s why I proposed €1 million,” Tinkov said.
Tinkov did, however, admit that perhaps in the calendar’s current format, the challenge would be too difficult. “It will require the organizers to make concessions. It will take a a less harsh and long Giro and Vuelta. The Giro is the craziest race,” he said. “It's much too hard to do Giro and Tour double. And maybe the Tour de France will also have to be shortened. So much for the French arrogance..."
Tinkov’s challenge has been met with a mixed reaction from the wider cycling world. On Thursday, Cyclingnews spoke to former Tour de France champions Carlos Sastre and Stephen Roche about the difficulties the riders would face. Sastre agreed with the belief that the races would need to be shorted, while Roche said that it would detract from the importance of winning a Grand Tour.
Of the team members that L’Équipe spoke to, the response wasn’t overwhelmingly positive, with concern that it could have a negative impact on the sport. “It is a utopia. What is the interest from a sporting point of view? Paris-Nice, Tirreno and so on would become second-class races and the riders who participate in them would be too, and everything would be devalued,” Team Sky DS Nicolas Portal told the daily sports paper.
FDJ.fr doctor Gérard Guillaume was heavily critical of the plan. “This is a provocation for money, a clear incitement to doping. If it is to see a zombie, a genetically programmed guy win all three Grand Tours, it has no interest.”