Tinkoff Saxo team conference: Questions and reactions from presentation plus interview video
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Monday, December 02, 2013

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

by Shane Stokes at 5:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Video
 
Riis, Tinkov, Contador, Roche and Seier Christensen comment on plans to build world’s number one team

Alberto Contador Bjarne Riis Oleg TinkovChanging his position on the team as a result of a multi million Euro sale to Oleg Tinkov, Bjarne Riis plans to work more closely with his riders in 2014 and beyond, motivating them and guiding them strategically. At today’s press conference in London which announced the deal, Riis said that he had been preoccupied with finding sponsorship in recent years, neglecting the important area of directing his riders because of the necessity of looking after the financial aspect.

He said with this area now being covered with Tinkov’s backing, that he can get back to trying to have the strongest possible team.

“Me owning the team or not doesn’t make that big of a different for me, personally, in terms of my ambitions for this team. Of course I have a long history with this team, but tis team is still in my heart,” he said. “I will have a lot of motivation for it. I can guarantee you that my motivation after this is not smaller. Absolutely not.”

Tinkov elaborated on this, saying that in addition to more direct input by Riis, the team will also have the money to pursue other elements which can contribute to success. This includes big name riders, but so too other factors.

“Of course, we will buy more riders, stronger riders, more stars. But we don’t have to be crazy about that. 2014 is done, you know the roster, there is no news. But it is a long project, and in 2015, 2016, 2017 we will buy more riders.

“But also we will bring a lot more into the team in terms of scientific [things]. What is important today is all of this – a diet nutrition programme, recovery and so on and so forth. This is where some of our rival teams are ahead and we have to catch up with them. Some of those teams are doing the right job and we would like to do this job.”

Asked about the doping issue and whether or not it is a good idea to invest in the sport, he suggested that the media exaggerates the issue and that the situation has settled down in recent years.

“These days I strongly believe that doping is over. Whatever you say, I think journalists talk about that because it sells newspapers, etcetera. I truly believe in big teams there are no issues about that now. It is over now. Cycling has changed. I think the Tinkov Saxo team can be a new face of cycling. We have zero tolerance to doping.

“I think nutrition programme, recovery, diet, discipline, good training is what you need in cycling today. Then it is a question of money too, you have to hire better scientists, some good special coaches. Maybe from outside of cycling, it is possible from other endurance sports, and psychologists and so on and so forth.”

The half hour conference saw Riis, Tinkov, Alberto Contador, Nicolas Roche and Saxo Bank co-founder and co-CEO Lars Seier Christensen give their thoughts on the past, the current deal and the future. A transcript of that presentation follows below, preceded by a separate video asking each of these more questions.



The conference opened with Riis confirming that speculation about the sale is true and giving some of his reasons for transferring ownership of the squad after being the sole owner since 2000.

Bjarne Riis: I believe this day is a great day for my team. This is actually a day I have been dreaming of for a very long time. I’d say many years. I have looked forwards to this, as I believe a day like today shows I have done some right things, some good things for this sport. Therefore I am very happy to announce that Oleg Tinkoff will be the new owner of the team.

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

Tinkoff Credit Systems will become the main sponsor, and Saxo Bank has agreed to become the second named sponsor for 2014. So from now on, or in 2014, the team will be called Tinkoff Saxo.

This is a great day for team that Oleg buys my company, as it means long term stability for team. With the additional resources it gives us the possibility to create an absolute world class team, and hopefully fulfil our goal of being the world’s number one team in future years.

Tinkov and Alberto Contador then came on stage. Riis congratulated the Russian on his acquisition, and then host Matt Rendell put a question to the new owner.

Q: This is the latest move in a lifetime of passion for cycling. Can you talk us through your history in this sport?

Oleg Tinkov: I took my first pedal stroke when I was twelve years old in Siberia, in a small city five thousand kilometres from Moscow.

I started to bike [cycle] because at that time my mother and father didn’t have money to buy a car. I got my bike for free – they couldn’t buy me a bike because my father was a miner and we had quite a poor family. I started cycling and it became my passion.

I started to win immediately because it was a flat area, there were no mountains, with sprints, races, time trials. I won over 40, 50 races in junior, but I never succeeded to go to pro level as I had to go to the army and after that my career was over. After that I went into business.

Finally in 2005 I had the time and the money so I came back to cycling. I set up a team called Tinkoff Restaurants, it was my business. Eventually that became Tinkov Credit System, my bank in 2006. This team was there for a few years.

The team won a lot of races for their budget. We brought a lot of riders…for example Vasil Kiryienka. He is one of the strongest riders in the peloton. He was found by myself. And Mikhail Ignatiev, Nicolai Trusev, and so on and so forth. We had good Russian riders and Italian riders. Eventually I sold it to Igor Makarov, who is a Russian oligarch, and it is Katusha now.

Basically Katusha was my team…I sold it because of the money. I always the dream to work with Bjarne Riis because he is the best sports director. Once my banks started to make money, I came back to this sport and became a sponsor of Bjarne and the Saxo Bank team. Now the situation has evolved and I am so proud and so happy to reach this deal with Bjarne and to become the owner of this. It is my company, it is my private money, it is my passion.

Finally I have the World Tour team, I have Bjarne as the best sport director and I have Alberto as the best rider, Alberto Contador. So I am so happy today.

Lars Seier Christensen, co-CEO and co-founder of Saxo Bank was next to speak, answering Rendell’s question for him.

Q: Can you explain the effectiveness of Saxo Bank’s involvement with this structure so far, and explain the future involvement with Oleg’s team?

Lars Seier Christensen: Well, we have been a sponsor since 2008, winning the Tour de France about six weeks after we entered the frame. So that was a good start.

It has had a lot of importance with Saxo Bank over the years. We are a huge institution but we were smaller back then. I think today when I travel around the world, going to some pretty exciting places from time to time, people actually know Saxo Bank by name, they have some kind of idea about what we do. I really think it is not from much other than from this sponsorship.

We have three main aims. When you have a very international business such as we have with 26 offices around the world, it is very difficult to do marketing in the tradition sense just by media etcetera and basically covering the vast majority of the world. But sponsorships such as this give you a good base to build your whole marketing in the mass space.

We have also used another priority for creating an event for some of our VIP clients. So we can create something very special in connection with many of the races and give people who are interested in cycling a really good experience.

Thirdly it is very good internally for morale that all of the colleagues have something that they have a joint interest in, they feel ownership for. They can celebrate when things are going well and commiserate when they are not going so well. Obviously we are commercial people so we wouldn’t have been around for six years if we didn’t feel that it worked. Now it is a new situation and I am very pleased for Oleg and Bjarne today. I think it is great that you have reached this point in the negotiations.

For us, we have been all along supportive of that. It is no secret that we have preferred the times when he have had a good partner in this sponsorship.

I think in this case with Oleg’s huge commitment, I think this really creates a very stable and long-term situation for the team. I know it is important for Bjarne and as I also said to him privately, I think he made the right decision and we congratulate them both on getting to this point. I am sure it is going to be great and we will do what we can to support them.

Alberto Contador was asked about how the deal would help him to fulfil his ambition of winning the 2014 Tour de France.

Alberto Contador: Well, I believe it 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 a man of the stature and wealth of Oleg comes in and brings his wealth to the sport.

I know many of you will be raising your eyebrows at our relationship after things that came into the public after the Tour de France. I can tell you Oleg and I have spent a lot of time together and whatever happened immediately after the Tour is long behind us.

It is a great thing for the team for a number of reasons. First of all, it brings stability to the existing structure. The riders who I need to help me to achieve my ambitions will have their future guaranteed for the coming years. And something that is especially important to me is that Riis will be much more involved in the sporting aspects of the team, he will be closer to us. So from my point of view it is a very good step what we are announcing today.

Team-mate Nicolas Roche also gave an answer to Rendell’s own question to him.


Q: Were it not for a very cold stage up to Andorra in the Vuelta, you might have been standing on the podium of a Grand Tour in September. How does this deal help you move forward in terms of your now-blossoming career?

Nicolas Roche: Well, I totally back up Alberto in his idea of giving Bjarne a lot more freedom and being able to follow us at the races. I think I was a perfect example this year as when Bjarne is involved with the team 99 or 100 percent, we were able to make a big difference.

To talk more about the day that I did the most to recover time that I lost, Bjarne worked a lot on the tactics that night. Maybe nothing could have been done to make me go faster the day before but we definitely worked on a plan to make me to get some precious seconds the next day.

That could have happened on any stages and maybe in a couple of months it will help Alberto get the Tour or help another rider perform well, so I think it is going to be a pretty exciting Tour ahead.

The conference then moved to questions from the floor, with Riis the first to be quizzed by the press.

Q: Bjarne – why do you sell the team?

Bjarne Riis: I will say first of all there are two reasons. I have to be honest, in the last four or five years I spent a lot of time searching for sponsors. We all know that has been difficult. For me it has been very stressful a long time to only be able to work year for year. Of course, this with Oleg in gives us that stability we need on the team. It takes a lot of stress away from me, so it gives me time to do what I think I am best at.

It secures the future of the team for the future. Me owning the team or not doesn’t make that big of a different for me, personally, in terms of my ambitions for this team. Of course I have a long history with this team, but tis team is still in my heart. I will have a lot of motivation for it. I can guarantee you that my motivation after this is not smaller. Absolutely not.

My goal is that the team is going to be the best team in the world, and I know that Oleg says the same thing. We have those ambitions together.

I can say that the last months have been great as regards this process, it has been great to work with Oleg. I have to say thanks Oleg for the seriousness he has brought into this. It has actually been fantastic. I don’t know if I was sure that they would have been like that, but with Oleg there have been serious conversations and with the right philosophy in this, that is also why I am ready to do this.

Secondly, for me personally, as I said before there has been a lot of stress over the years. It gives me more freedom to do the things that I know I am good at. It also gives me more freedom to be a dad to my kids and a good husband to my wife. My family is very important to me.

Q: Does the ongoing anti-doping investigation in Denmark have anything to do with you selling at this moment?

Absolutely not. These are pure speculations and we don’t act on speculations. So as I said before, there are two reasons why I am doing this, and I just mentioned them.

Q: What do you think this will mean for Danish Cycling, that you are selling your team which has been a talent factory for many a big talent in Danish cycling?

I don’t know, I think you should ask people in Denmark that. I hope it is something good. I am proud of what I have been doing in the past ten or twelve years or more years, or even more than that.

With this team I think we have build up some good things in Denmark. In Denmark there is a huge amount of talent in the future. I would say cycling in Denmark is more than just me. I don’t think it will necessarily change a lot.

Then again, I will say this team continues the structure, the structure will stay more or less the same. We will still have our office, for at least the next year, in Denmark. We are the WorldTour team with the most Danish riders. I think the Danish factor on this team is still there.

Then again, I have to say for me this was never 100 percent a Danish team, it was a global international team. I think that is something that Oleg and I have discussed a lot and we agree that this has to be a international global team and not Danish, not Russian.

Oleg Tinkov was then asked for his own thoughts:

Q: I have two questions. Firstly, the ambition of having the best team in the world – how will you go about achieving that? Does that mean pumping more money in and hiring a different team, or changing the way the team is run? That is one question. Secondly, you are putting money into cycling. Cycling has had a bad press in terms of talking about doping allegations. Is it a good time for a business to be associated with cycling?

Oleg Tinkov: Firstly, money is not everything, but that means a lot. Of course, we will buy more riders, stronger riders, more stars. But we don’t have to be crazy about that. 2014 is done, you know the roster, there is no news. But it is a long project, and in 2015, 2016, 2017 we will buy more riders.

But also we will bring a lot more into the team in terms of scientific [things]. What is important today is all of this – a diet nutrition programme, recovery and so on and so forth.

This is where some of our rival teams are ahead and we have to catch up with them. Some of those teams are doing the right job and we would like to do this job.

These days I strongly believe that doping is over. Whatever you say, I think journalists talk about that because it sells newspapers, etcetera. I truly believe in big teams there are no issues about that now. It is over now. Cycling has changed. I think the Tinkoff Saxo team can be a new face of cycling. We have zero tolerance to doping.

I think nutrition programme, recovery, diet, discipline, good training is what you need in cycling today. Then it is a question of money too, you have to hire better scientists, some good special coaches. Maybe from outside of cycling, it is possible from other endurance sports, and psychologists and so on and so forth.

Cycling has become more scientific to me and also it is a business. That is where we expect to be able to improve.

I think this will significantly impact the results. Well all know that now the general classification is now all about seconds. We have to invest in them. It is not going to happen overnight but over the next two, three or four years, I agree with Bjarne that we are going to build the best team in the world. We will have a team we can be proud of.

Q: Who will decide which riders will join the team?

It is very simple. There is not much room for change. Bjarne will be running the team from the sporting aspects. He is choosing the riders, he is choosing the roster for each particular race. That had to happen before and nothing will change now. I am not going to dictate what riders are going to be needed.

It is his decision, it is not my decision. It would be stupid for me to have the best sport manager, directeur sportif in the world and then not listen to him. Why I would do that? I won’t run this team, I don’t have time, I am a businessman and will be in my office. I am not in the office of the team and I am not at every race…I will come to some races, but it is not my business. I will let Bjarne run all of it.

I would like to confirm that this is not a Danish team, this is not a Russian team, this is not a Spanish team, this is not an Italian team, it is not an Irish team. This is a global international project.

Some countries try to get national teams. I think that is not our project. It could work…I think it is good for Continental teams, for youth teams, for the development teams. A Danish team, a Russian team, a Spanish team. But once it comes to the top level, then you are talking about it not being a national team. I don’t believe in this.

If we see the results, if we see a good rider, we sign him.

Q: There is this investigation in the Danish anti-doping association and we know that Bjarne’s name has been mentioned in this investigation. Does it concern you that your general manager is in this investigation?

As Bjarne has, it is a bit difficult to speak about speculation. Honestly I never read the documents, I don’t know what is exactly what is going on. Once there will be the consequence, once there will the [final] documents, of course we will have to deal with it. If there would be a decision, then we have to follow the decision. But now I know nothing about it.

It is not my business. I believe in Bjarne and I hope nothing happens and we will do this together. I would like to assure you that this never affected our deal. Lars was the one who helped us to make this deal happen.

If that happens, it is sad…anything can happen. We have to deal with it according to the situation. But right now I am fully committed to Bjarne and I don’t have any problems.

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