Tinkov’s spokesman confirms talks with Team Saxo Tinkoff plus other squads about possible purchase of a team
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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tinkov’s spokesman confirms talks with Team Saxo Tinkoff plus other squads about possible purchase of a team

by VeloNation Press at 10:40 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Russian billionaire seems intent on owning his own team, but will it happen for 2014?

Oleg TinkovAlthough he said after talks with Cannondale failed that it would be 2015 before he had a team in cycling, it appears that there is a chance that Oleg Tinkov could own a squad sooner than that.

A report in today’s Gazzetta dello Sport claimed that he had bought Team Saxo Tinkoff for a figure close to seven million euro and while both the team’s media manager and Tinkov’s spokesman have said that no deal is done, it appears that talks are indeed taking place.

However Team Saxo Tinkoff is not the Russian billionaire’s sole opportunity, as other teams have apparently also indicated that they could be receptive to an approach.

“After the end of our negotiation with Cannondale we have received several proposals - from existing teams and new projects - and we are working on them,” said Tinkov spokesman Stefano Feltrin to VeloNation today. “Oleg’s relationship with Riis has been always ongoing - as he is, among other things, still his current sponsor.”

Asked if it was likely that Tinkov would be part of the peloton in 2014, he said that it was too soon to tell.

“We have signed nothing as of today with no one and I cannot predict whether this might happen for next year or not.”

La Gazzetta dello Sport’s claim that a deal had already been done was greeted with surprise this morning, not least because things between Tinkov and team owner Bjarne Riis had appeared tense since July.

The Russian was openly critical about team leader Alberto Contador during the Tour de France, stating that he was overpaid and that Tinkov only wanted to back winners. Contador finished fourth in the race, falling below expectations.

Tinkov threatened to abandon his backing of the Bjarne Riis’ squad and on July 25th, four days after the end of the Tour, Riis admitted that things were over.

Tinkov said the same later on that day, but insisted that he would remain involved in cycling.

“From 2014 Tinkoff Credit Systems bank will stop sponsoring Riis Cycling,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “We have decided it for two reasons: Poor sporting merits in 2013 season [and] our own cycling project.

“From January 2014, we will start to build our own cycling team "Tinkoff Credit Systems". This will be BIG project with 5 years commitment.”

More recently, he held talks with Cannondale, but these fell through as Tinkov wanted to take over ownership of the squad.

Given that Tinkov said via Twitter that he would only entertain thoughts of staying with Riis’ team if Contador left, La Gazzetta’s story was unexpected. The Italian paper claimed today that Riis is under pressure due to Anti-Doping Denmark’s investigation of him, an enquiry that was thrust back into the headlines this week due to Michael Rasmussen’s book Yellow Fever.

In that publication the Dane claims that Riis turned a blind eye to his doping when he was with the team in 2002, echoing previous claims made by past riders including Tyler Hamilton.

If Riis feels that there is a chance that he could be banned from cycling, cashing in on offers may be an option he sees as worth considering.

However that would leave his team and riders with a backer that has been somewhat confrontational. It remains to be seen how Contador would respond to the possible ownership by someone who has publicly criticised him on several occasions.

For now, though, nothing has been finalised. Team Saxo Tinkoff communications manager Allan Jørgensen told tv2.dk that La Gazzetta’s story about a sale being done was wrong.

“Normally we do not go out and comment on specific rumours, but in this case I would like to emphasize that we have not sold to Oleg.”

The communications director of the Saxo Bank company said that discussions with an unnamed secondary sponsor had been going very well.

“It has always been our practice not to comment on rumours , and this also applies in this case , so I will neither confirm or deny anything ,” stated Kasper Elbjørn to Politiken.

“However, I can say this much, that the negotiations for the benefit of a co-sponsor, which has been going on since Saxo Bank guaranteed the necessary chapter to the team's continued existence just over three weeks ago in Madrid, is very promising.”

He said that he could not elaborate at this point in time, and described it as ‘very unlikely’ that Riis could move away from the team.


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