Tinkov new owner of Riis’ squad: “The goal is to become the world’s best team’
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Tinkov new owner of Riis’ squad: “The goal is to become the world’s best team’

by Shane Stokes at 10:58 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Outfit renamed Tinkoff Saxo, will buy more big name riders in the future

As expected, Oleg Tinkov has taken over ownership of the Riis Cycling company and, with it, the team previously under the control of Bjarne Riis. Confirmation has come at a press conference held this afternoon in London, with the three year deal bringing about some key changes.

Russian businessman Tinkov has purchased the team, its infrastructure, the riders contracts and the WorldTour licence from Riis, and has inked a three year deal to support the team. Riis has signed up for the same period as general manager, and will now have the responsibility of getting the best of his riders.

“I always wanted to work with Bjarne, he is the best,” said Tinkov, confirming the new roles. “I am very proud of this today – finally I have the World Tour team, and I have the best rider in the world, Alberto Contador. I am looking forward to great success.”

Riis is standing back from the position of owner, but presented it as a good thing for both himself and for the squad.

“This is s a great day for my team. This is actually a day I have been dreaming of for a very long time. I believe it shows I have done some right things, some good things for the sport. I am very happy to announce that Oleg Tinkoff will be the new owner of the team,” he said.

“We have made an agreement about him buying Riis Cycling, which is done with immediate effect. Riis Cycling has been renamed Tinkoff Sport. That means Oleg privately owns 100 percent of the team and he will be the sole owner. It also means that I will continue in the position on the team as the general manager for at least three years.”

He said that the main sponsor will become Tinkoff Credit Systems, with Saxo Bank agreeing to stay on board for 2014. The team’s name will be Tinkoff Saxo next season.

He’s clear on the benefits to him and to the team itself. “This is a great day in that it brings long-term stability to the team. With the additional resources it will enable us to build an absolute world class team, with the goal of becoming the world’s number one team in future years.”

The team’s top rider Contador has had some tense moments with Tinkov, not least due to public criticism of him during and after the Tour de France, but he said that has been put behind them now.

“I know many of you will be raising your eyebrows about things that came into light at the Tour and after but I can tell you we have spent a lot of time together and that is long behind us,” the Spaniard said.

“This is an important moment. I think in these times when there is a dearth of new sponsors coming into the sport, it can only be a good thing when there is this kind of backing.”

In addition to that stability, he also sees another benefit. “Bjarne Riis will be a lot more involved in the sporting aspects of the team, he will be working more closely with us. For me that is very, very good for the team and our prospects.”

Team-mate Nicolas Roche also said that he was happy. “I back what Alberto said about the benefits of Bjarne having a lot more freedom to work with us,” he said. “After I lost time in the Vuelta a España, he worked closely with me to work out how to get some time back. We worked on a plan how to get back some precious seconds the next day, showing his tactical ability. He will be able to do that much more now. I think there is going to be a really exciting year ahead.”

Big changes coming for squad:

The team was previously known as Team Memory Card-Jack & Jones but after Riis’ stepped up to become sole owner in late 2000, the name changed to CSC-Tiscali, reflecting two new sponsors.

It became Team CSC in 2003, taking second and third in the Tour de France with Ivan Basso in 2004 and 2005, and then winning the Giro d’Italia with him in 2006.

In 2008 the squad became CSC Saxo Bank and took the biggest success to date, winning the Tour de France with Carlos Sastre.

It has been trying to repeat that performance in the years since, with Contador coming on board in 2011, finishing fifth that year and then netting fourth this season.

He was unable to ride the race in 2012 due to a suspension for clenbuterol, but won the Vuelta a España weeks after the end of that period out of the sport.

Riis said that he will be working more closely with Contador and the other riders in 2014 and beyond. In addition to that, the team will have the money to be able to sign more big riders. Tinkov said that because the roster is already set, there will be no changes in 2014. However longer term, bigger names will come on board and the overall strength of the team will improve.

He also said that the emphasis on sports science will pick up, with the team looking for all legal means possible to improve. Asked about doping, he said the team will have a zero tolerance policy, and that he considered the issue of doping in cycling to be essentially resolved at this point in time.

As for the investigation of Riis by Anti Doping Denmark, he said that he wouldn’t comment on speculation but if and when it came to a point where that has to be dealt with, he will do so then. For now, he stated, Riis has his full support and that he looked forward to working with him.

Also see: Tinkoff Saxo team conference: Questions and reactions from presentation plus interview video


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