Alberto Contador will lead the new Tinkoff-Saxo team in 2014 despite being publicly criticised by its owner, Oleg Tinkoff.
The Spaniard, a multiple Grand Tour winner, told a news conference in London today that comments made by the Russian financier after this year’s Tour de France were “a long way behind us”.
Tinkoff was highly critical of Contador’s performance during this year’s hundredth edition of cycling’s biggest race, where the Spaniard finished fourth.
But speaking at a press conference held to announce Tinkoff’s purchase of Riis Cycling, the previous owners of the team backed by the Russian with Denmark’s Saxo Bank, Contador said the two men had moved on.
“I know that many of you will be raising your eyebrows after things that came into the public after the Tour de France,” said Contador, speaking through an interpreter. “I can tell you that Oleg and I have spent a lot of time together and whatever happened immediately after the Tour is a long way behind us.”
The Madrileno, who won cycling’s biggest race in 2007 and 2009, and who was stripped of his 2010 victory for a doping infraction, said Tinkoff’s ownership would bring structure to the team.
“The riders who I need to help me to achieve my ambitions will have their futures guaranteed for the coming years,” he said. Contador received tireless support from Roman Kreuziger and the Irishman, Nicolas Roche, during this year’s Grande Boucle. Both men have been retained for the 2014 campaign.
I can tell you that Oleg and I have spent a lot of time together and whatever happened immediately after the Tour is a long way behind us – Alberto Contador
Tinkoff has bought the team from 1996 Tour de France winner, Bjarne Riis, who later admitted doping to win the race. Riis will remain as general manger for at least three years, an appointment that won Contador’s approval.
“Something that is especially important to me [is] Bjarne Riis will be much more involved in the sporting aspect of the team. He will be closer to us. From my point of view, it is a very, very good step that we are announcing today,” he said.
Riis is at the centre of investigations by Anti-Doping Denmark. The Dane denied that the sale of the team was motivated by the investigation, insisting that it was to free him from the stress of seeking sponsors and would allow him to focus on the team’s performance.
Tinkoff, whose love of cycling began as a junior rider in Siberia, and who has since risen from childhood poverty to become a multi-millionaire, refused to comment on the investigation into his general manager. Riis had earlier dismissed the allegations as “speculation”.
“I know nothing about that,” Tinkoff said. “I do not discuss what was then or what was before. That is not my business. I believe in Bjarne. I hope that nothing happens and that we will all still be together. For sure, this did not effect the deal. We’ve been talking about it for some time.
“If bad things happen, it’s sad, but right now I have no worries. I am fully committed to Bjarne and I don’t have any problems.”
Tinkoff said he believed the era of doping in cycling had ended and that success now lay with factors such as nutrition, recovery, and discipline. “The GC is now decided by seconds, not minutes,” he said. A scientific approach was needed, he said, with the possible recruitment of coaches from outside from cycling
Tinkoff denied that he would try to influence rider selection, arguing that employing Riis only to overrule him would be illogical.
Photographs by Roz Jones. Used with kind permission of On The Road Cycling Tours