Oleg Tinkov will leave cycling at the end of this season, but it won’t be without a few parting shots about the state of the sport. In an interview with the Danish television broadcaster TV2 earlier this week, the current owner of the Tinkoff team said that the present cycling model is broken and that the likes of BMC and Katusha could shut up shop in the near future.
Tinkov first joined the sport as a sponsor but turned owner in 2013 when he bought out Bjarne Riis at the Tinkoff-Saxo team for six million euros. The Russian businessman had made noises in 2015 about a potential departure from the sport but finally confirmed it to Cyclingnews last December that this season would be his final one.
Tinkoff team manager Stefano Feltrin is still hunting for a new sponsor and says that the potential to save the team is still only 50-50, after missing his self-imposed deadline of the Giro d’Italia. Swiss outfit IAM Cycling has already confirmed its departure from the sport after failing to find a secondary sponsor. At the end of last season, BMC Racing extended their sponsorship deal beyond the end of 2016, although they would not confirm the exact length of the deal.
“I have not tried to sell it, what does that mean to sell in cycling? Teams collapse, like my team, and I'm sure there will soon be more that collapse,” Tinkoff told TV2. “The business model in cycling is wrong. I am sure that BMC and Katusha will close their doors soon.”
Tinkov added that the current stand-off between governing body the UCI and Tour de France organisers ASO about the proposed reforms of the sport and the WorldTour, in particular, are damaging it, and it will not be able to move on without agreement from the ASO.
“The sport is in a huge crisis, but if the ASO does not agree to share with the teams of the TV rights as in Formula 1, things will never change,” he said. “It may change the sport, but until that happens, we have scandal after scandal, and collapse after collapse. I do not see any future for the sport with this model.”
During his time as a sponsor and an owner, Tinkov has voiced his frustrations with the way that cycling is run. However, he said in the interview that he didn’t regret the supposed 50 million that he has spent on his team.
“I've never regretted a single penny I spent. I have spent many millions and hours of cycling, and I have no regrets. I've enjoyed it.”