Oleg Tinkov has dismissed Bjarne Riis' reported plans to buy back the team from the Russian businessman, suggesting that the former team manager is "Persona non grata like Lance Armstrong."
Tinkov told Cyclingnews that he would consider any offer above the €4.5 million he paid the Dane to acquire the team in 2013 but does not believe Riis has the funds or sponsors in place to complete a deal. Tinkov suggested Riis is obsessed about returning to professional because of his ego.
The outspoken Russian team owner spoke to Cyclingnews on the final day of the Abu Dhabi Tour. He later attended the UCI Cycling Gala, offering champagne to his riders to celebrate Peter Sagan's world title.
Last week Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet reported that Riis was close to buying back the team structure he sold to Tinkov but the team claimed no firm offer had been made. Riis reportedly has support and funding from Lars Seier Christensen, the founder of Saxo Bank but he recently quit his position of CEO at the Danish investment bank. There are rumours that Riis has also found another sponsor but it is not clear if he has enough funds in place to buy back the team and take over from Tinkoff as title sponsor.
"I haven't heard from Riis since he left the team," Tinkov told Cyclingnews with disdain. "I've spoken to Lars Seier Christensen a few times and know that he wants to come back. But if you ask me, he's making a mistake. I think after his latest confessions in the Anti-Doping Denmark report he's like Lance Armstrong, he's persona non grata in cycling. Of course if he wants to come back, I can't stop him, it's his right. Though I don't think it's good for cycling."
"He can buy my team if he wants; anybody can. I don't care if it's Riis or a Sheik from Abu Dhabi or Dubai. It'd be a business decision for me. I paid Riis €4.5 million for the team. If someone offers me more, I'd consider selling it. But I honestly doubt that they have the money. Riis seemed obsessed about coming back. He wants his old team back because of his ego and what happened. But the truth is that Riis has no real money to buy the team and Lars has no real money either. The Danes are always looking for a deal but they're too cheap. They don't have the money like some Russians or Arabs do."
Ekstra Bladet report that Riis has been approaching riders at the Tinkoff-Saxo team, trying to convince them not to sign new contracts before any eventual offer and change in ownership. However it seems that even the current team cannot offer contracts beyond 2016 because Tinkov has yet to confirm if he will continue to fund the team beyond next season.
"All the riders are under contract, we're all set for 2016; then we will see for the future," Tinkov said. "We have the budget and the team will simply be called Tinkoff. We've already designed a prototype of a very beautiful new jersey with a huge Tinkoff logo on the chest. I like that.
"If someone wants to buy the team they have to be quick, they probably have two weeks left. Because once we have our first team meeting in Croatia at the end of the month, then it's too late."