Former team owner Oleg Tinkov has returned to the Tour de France – but this time, as a two-wheeled fan.
Tinkov was present in the team ‘paddock’ at the stage 19 start at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, clad in full Tinkoff team kit and riding around on a bike
Other members of his group of friends were briefly unable to enter the main teams area, apparently because they had no accreditation, but Tinkov made his way through nonetheless.
"I have come back to this and it all looks exactly the same," Tinkov told a small cluster of reporters. "I’ve been away from three years and there are no changes."
"There are plenty of climbs at 1,800 metres so normally he should win," he said. "That’s my prediction, I don’t know. It’s an open race, it’s nice."
A colourful if somewhat controversial character who was never afraid of speaking his mind, Tinkov added he has no plans to return to sponsoring a bike team.
"Maybe at some point I’ll have a team but I’m not considering it right now."
Tinkov started backing teams from 2006-08 with Tinkoff Restaurants and Tinkoff Credit Systems, returning in 2012 as sponsor at Saxo Bank, and taking full ownership two years later. In 2016, he brought down the curtain on his WorldTour squad, which won the Vuelta a España twice and the Giro d'Italia once, all with Alberto Contador.
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