Never one to hold back when he believes that his team’s performances are not up to scratch, Oleg Tinkov has responded to Tinkoff-Saxo’s lack of early season success by insisting on a significant change within the team’s management structure.
According to L’Équipe, the Russian entrepreneur had a public row with team manager Bjarne Riis during Tirreno-Adriatico. Angered by a haul of just one win since the start of the year, by Alberto Contador’s loss to Nairo Quintana in the mountains at Tirreno and Rafal Majka’s poor showing as team leader at Paris-Nice, Tinkov demanded that the Dane take over the duties as lead directeur sportif and relegate Steven de Jongh to a seat in the second car.
“A big talent must always remain under pressure, whether it comes from God or they apply it themselves. And when you’ve got a contract that amounts to several millions that’s even more the case,” Tinkov told the French paper.
“I put myself under pressure every day. These are athletes and directeurs sportifs, they’re not the Princess with the pea,” the Russian with a flourish.
L’Équipe reports that Riis was not happy with Tinkov’s intervention, although big money signing Peter Sagan did add a second victory to the team’s 2015 palmarès soon after it. In the wake of that success, the Slovak pointedly commented: “We know how to put pressure on ourselves and it’s not necessary for anyone else to do it for us.”
Since purchasing the team’s WorldTour licence from Riis at the end of 2013, Tinkov has imposed his will on the team. At the end of last season, he released Philippe Mauduit and Fabrizio Guidi from their DS roles, while Contador’s long-time soigneur Valentín Dorronsoro was also sacked because he was perceived as being old-fashioned.
He also hyped the qualities of Contador and Sagan. Last month he suggested the Spaniard’s rivals were afraid of him, which wasn’t borne out at the Ruta del Sol or Tirreno. Tinkov has said of Sagan that he will be upset if he doesn’t win “two or three great Classics”, picking out Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders as the two where he has the highest expectations of the Slovak.
A victory in San Remo on Sunday for pre-race favourite Sagan would help certainly smooth the waters within the team.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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