Roche on Tinkoff Bank departure: Says riders will keep focussed on their own roles, hopes team gets replacement sponsor
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Roche on Tinkoff Bank departure: Says riders will keep focussed on their own roles, hopes team gets replacement sponsor

by Shane Stokes at 6:15 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
“I don’t think it was just Twitter, there was other issues as well.”

Nicolas RocheNicolas Roche has said that he and the other riders on the team are keeping focussed on their own work while the Saxo Tinkoff team goes about trying to secure a second sponsor for 2014.

The Irishman, Roman Kreuziger, Michael Rogers and others were brought on board last winter on the basis of the extra budget team owner Bjarne Riis secured with the backing of Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov.

The latter’s Tinkoff Bank put in an estimated six million Euro to become the team’s second title sponsor, but the collaboration was much shorter than anticipated.

While Tinkov indicated prior to the Tour de France that he might be willing to put in extra money and become the main sponsor, the inability of Alberto Contador to beat Chris Froome (Sky) in the Tour de France led to criticism from the Russian. He said that Contador was overpaid and undertrained.

On Thursday of this week Riis announced that talks had concluded between them without agreement; soon after, Tinkov said that he was walking away because the sporting results were not what he had expected, and also because he wanted to set up his own five year project.

“There is not much I can say about it. I read about it [in the media], but I don’t interfere with any of that,” Roche told VeloNation. “It is not my job to get involved in the sponsor relationship, but I hope it works out for the team.”

Roche signed a two year deal prior to the start of this season, relinquishing his leader’s role with Ag2r La Mondiale in order to work for, and learn from, Contador.

Now there is uncertainty about what will happen next with the team; while the backing of Saxo Bank is guaranteed for 2014, it must look for a replacement for Tinkoff Bank and make up the shortfall in budget.

The first sign of cracks became clear when Tinkov posted a series of bizarre and sometimes offensive tweets during the Tour de France. Some were sexist, racist and homophobic in nature; in one message, he said that he’d consider switching his money into a women’s team instead.

“Fresca [fresh] idea: to sponsor women's cycling team, definitely win all for this budget, plus you can chose only long legs sluts into the team :-)” he wrote on July 15th.

When that message was challenged by a Twitter reader, Tinkov responded by questioning his sexual orientation.

When asked about the messages, Roche said that the riders just kept their heads down and got on with racing.

“The riders tried to stay away from all that as much as possible,” he said. “We were actually pretty lucky - very few journalists actually came up to us during the Tour and asked us about Twitter and stuff like that. They understood that we were just cycling and it had nothing to do with us.

“A lot of the messages were against Froome and Sky, but there was a lot of them against us too. We didn’t pay attention to it. Obviously the first time was like, oh, what’s happening?’

“The second time, we just carried on and didn’t bother looking at it.”

Speaking to this week, Riis referred to the Tweets and hinted they were one of the issues that saw a divergence of opinions.

“No one is surprised that we have different positions. He is allowed to do it. It doesn't matter what I think,” he said in reference to the messages. “We have different personalities. We do not have the same understanding of how a team should be run. Of course, the tweets meant something, but it is not the main reason.”

Roche echoed that. “Obviously, I don’t think it was only Twitter, there might have been other issues there as well which we don’t know about,” he said. “I think the best thing is to stay away from that, to just hope that the team finds a second sponsor and that everything goes on well.”

Tour and next races:

Roche dedicated himself to Contador and the team in the Tour, helping it to win the team classification. He takes a degree of satisfaction from that and the work he did, although he believes he wasn’t in his own top shape.

“I was disappointed not being at my top climbing level, but then I was able to do a lot of other work,” he said. “I was a lot better on the flat, I felt more powerful there than before, even in the crosswinds. And also pulling on the middle mountain stages. It was okay, I am happy enough.

“The team classification win was nice. I felt we deserved it. It was nice that it happened naturally, that we didn't set out chasing that. Okay, on one day we had to defend it…that day to Grand Bournand, when there were fourteen guys away. We only had two in the move but a lot of teams had three. That is why we started riding behind.

“The team attacked every single day of the Tour. For me, to be on the podium for the first time in Paris was very nice.”

Roche returns to competition today, riding the Clasica San Sebastian. “I’m pedalling squares at the moment,” he said. “It is funny - if the Tour went on for a couple of days more, you could probably still go for it. But as soon as it stops, it is the same as after a rest day – your body just locks up. But for San Sebastian, I should be okay.”

Beyond today, he will do criteriums in France on Monday and Tuesday, then build up for the Vuelta a España. After that, he will do the team time trial at the world championships, then hopes to ride the world championship road race for the Irish team and then do the Tour of Beijing.”

Contador has already said that he won’t be doing the Vuelta. That means that Roche and others on the team will likely have greater personal opportunity than if the defending champion was there. “From what I understand, the roles will be fairly open,” he said.


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