Tinkoff-Saxo have reiterated their belief in the idea to have the world’s top four Grand Tour riders go head-to-head at the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana next season.
Oleg Tinkov, the team’s owner, is prepared to offer €1million if Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and 2013 Tour winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) join their Vuelta a Espana winner Alberto Contador at all three races next season.
Billed by the Russian-backed team as a potential turning point in the sport, the “Three Grand Tours” proposal – they hope – will help to boost interest in the sport.
And the team’s CEO Stefano Feltrin, who first coined the idea a few months ago, insists the proposal could be a major fillip for professional cycling.
He said: “This isn’t a joke or a publicity stunt. We are very serious about it and we feel it is a proposal that will help cycling move forward.
“The fact our team owner Oleg Tinkov is putting on the table an important financial incentive is further proof of our intentions. The offer of €1million by Tinkoff Credit Systems could also be matched by other sponsors.
“We first approached the other teams during the recent Vuelta and we are encouraged by the recent positive reaction to our idea. We look forward to further discussing it with the key stakeholders.
“Team Movistar manager, Eusebio Unzué, has stated the idea was good while Team Sky manager, David Brailsford, thinks it has a lot of merit. They both agree it is a question of making the right program, so we invite them to make this in the interest of evolving cycling.”
If the proposal were accepted, it would mark the first time four of the leading riders in the sport would compete for all three Grand Tours.
Contador, who had already confirmed his intentions to bid for a Giro-Tour double, was buoyed by this month’s Giro route announcement which, though featuring a brutal final week, has short transfers between stages.
Tinkov called the route ‘hard and impressive, but not cruel’ and it is hoped that will encourage Nibali – last year’s Giro champion – Quintana and Froome to take the San Remo start line too.
And team manager Bjarne Riis, who admitted the task of competing for victory in all three Grand Tours is a fiercely difficult one, believes Contador to be capable of at least aiming for a podium place.
“Racing in the three Grand Tours isn’t an issue in itself for the world’s best riders, they will not have any problems with that,” he said. “However, winning or going for a podium place in all three is another thing and that will narrow it down to very few people.
“I think there is a very small number of riders that are able to accomplish such a remarkable feat and we still don’t know who they might be, because it hasn’t been done before. That’s the beauty of this challenge.
“I believe Alberto Contador can aim at the podium in all three Grand Tours in one season and I think he has the capacity to do it. Nevertheless, I think that extraordinary physical capacity alone will not be enough.
“It is a very important factor but a rider needs three more crucial elements: The ability to recover between races, the mental strength and a perfect preparation and planning of the season.
“As I said, maybe just a handful of riders combine all the elements to undertake such an extraordinary challenge. Do we know who they are? Not yet, because we have never had the opportunity in the past, so it would be excellent to see it happen, as soon as next year.”
In explaining their proposal in a press release, Tinkoff-Saxo accepted the challenge could open the Grand Tours to riders just aiming for one – Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is one rider who could seize the opportunity.
But they believe the risk is worth taking. The team concluded: “It is a risk Tinkoff-Saxo acknowledges and is willing to take as it can only help the sport of cycling evolve.”