Oleg Tinkov has said he’ll stop sponsorship of the Tinkoff team and sell the squad at the end of 2016. There’s no surprise, Tinkov has openly said it was a possibility, once telling La Gazzetta Dello Sport that he saw his team as a “toy” which he could get bored with. He’ll go with a wake of headlines but could there be others?

Tinkov made a career of copycatting. From breweries to credit cards, he’s taken a successful Western business idea and introduced it to Russia. No mean feat to import, adapt and drive it but it’s all very different to buying a pro team: instead of pioneering he was simply following other billionaires into the peloton, an act of passion rather than capitalism. He told cyclingnews.com that he “tried to fight” but he was never in a strong position to lead the charge, just one team owner among others and even with the Velon group he didn’t have full support, culminating in him insulting the Tour de France’s Christian Pruhomme and Yan Le Moenner.

Look closer and there have been more clues to his exit with all the major riders on contracts ending next year with the exception of Peter Sagan and Rafał Majka and the neo-pros on obligatory two year deals: almost as if everything was being prepared for winding up except for two of the star riders with enough bargaining power to insist on longer deals. Gone is the talk of rivalling Team Sky, of rider development, “big data” and more, instead Tinkoff is a top-heavy squad Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan have been the stars but there are few other riders to carry the team, with the exception of Rafał Majka, part-leader, part luxury lieutenant. The squad includes many capable, experienced riders but few regular winners, indeed Sagan has barely more help in the team than he got at Cannondale and Liquigas. All this means that once Contador retires next year the team is going to need reshaping. Can they afford to hire another stage race star or does Majka step up? Peter Sagan is a phenomenon but while we celebrate his worlds win remember he spent most of the year being painted as a rival to Greg Van Avermaet for consistently falling off the top step of the podium and his spring classics campaign was summarised by the image of him in a ditch. In other words if the team wants to continue it needs to sign more talent and this is costly.

So Tinkov is selling. Reports vary on how much Tinkov paid and he’s talked about a “return on equity”. Only whatever he paid it was too much in cold analytical terms, he paid a premium to buy a fast route into the sport by taking over the team from Bjarne Riis rather than taking a year or two to build the team from scratch. Only with all team’s licences up for review at the end of 2016 it’s a buyer’s market. Anyone wanting to take over the team gets a a team bus, but like all vehicles this will have depreciated in value; presumably the team cars are on loan from partner Citroen. As for land there’s a service course warehouse but presumably this is leased. So all we’re left with is a team bus and a ton of tools and a hard to value network of staff contracts and ethos plus Peter Sagan’s contract. Is Sagan an asset or a liability? He’s the sport’s best paid rider and needs to deliver in the spring classics and the Tour de France to match the cash spent on him.

Oleg Tinkov Alberto Contador
Not shy, just retiring

Tinkov will leave lamenting the teams’ collective inability to reform the sport. But we’ve never seen where the money could come from. Onboard cameras are fun but ask yourself how much you’d pay per view? There’s the answer: they’re not worth much. Serving VIPs and paying punters is still an untapped market with a range of ideas in return for access still largely unexplored but hardly a gold mine either. TV rights are seen as the big issue but as explained in more detail in The Problem With Revenue Sharing, even if ASO decided to pay away half of its revenue to the 18 World Tour teams this would amount to €3.8 million per year per team or about quarter of a team’s budget. Now that’s serious money but not game-changing. More importantly it’s a fantasy idea since ASO wouldn’t pay out half of its revenue; and it couldn’t because it’s got a business to run. If ASO decided to pay out half of its profits instead, teams would collect €860,000 each, an irrelevant sum but still fantasy to imagine ASO charitably donating its profits to teams reliant on the platform offered by the Tour de France to attract their sponsorship.

Certainly all this is static and based on cutting up the existing cake instead of baking a bigger one or changing the recipe. The recent announcement by the UCI of reforms to the World Tour which look a lot like the existing system mean big changes are not coming yet.

Front row seat

Tinkov isn’t the first to leave of course, many businessmen have come and gone. Most recently Team Leopard saw Luxembourg’s Flavio Becca fund a team with the idea that winning races would make the real estate on the team’s jersey so valuable that sponsorship and merchandising income would exceed the team’s wage bill. Only Becca’s vanished.

Which bring us to other team owners. In recent months Katusha owner Igor Makarov has said he can’t fund the team in perpetuity, while BMC Racing’s Andy Rihs is also mulling how long he can back the team, based on numbers from two years ago the squad’s budget was a quarter of BMC’s sales revenue, put another way the team costs more than BMC can make in profit. IAM’s Michel Thétaz wants a sponsor to help fund the team. Looking ahead Belgian tycoon Marc Coucke’s sold Omega Pharma and more interested in football now. Are we heading for the sugardaddy shake-out?

The UCI’s World Tour reforms remain to be seen given there’s a only a press release to go on. But if teams have to opt for three year licences then how many owners want to be liable for their team from now until the end of 2019? The irony is that rules designed to increase “stability” could be encouraging team owners to head for the exit. In turn this could drive down rider wages and make the sport more accessible for a new round of wealthy owners and corporate sponsors alike.

Tinkov is not out of the sport yet, he’s got at least a year left and since he’s so passionate about the sport it’s hard to imagine him vanishing even if his team folds. He’s surely the most visible and high-profile team owner, a showman as much as a businessman. He’s spent a fortune on a team that probably requires more money. Now the new UCI reforms could require team owners to commit for three years and the lack of other changes could be the final straw. But look at the team and its contracts and previous statements and even tweets and Tinkov has been going cold on the sport for some time. Losing one controversial team owner is a talking point but there are structural problems ahead if he’s the first of several sugardaddy team owners to quit.

133 thoughts on “Tink-Off”

  1. An avaricious blowhard whose only interest in cycling – other than his endless self-aggrandisement – was to turn it into something profitable for Oleg Tinkov.

    All of his ideas showed this: teams running cycling, boycotting the TdF, wanting to buy and sell riders, etc.

    His exit is indicative of nothing except his realisation that his Velon-backed putsch is not going to work. He just didn’t have the intelligence to realise that cycling is not a good way to make money.

    His statement reeks of bitterness, not to mention delusions of self-importance. A shyster who has been nothing but a toxin in the sport – on both of the occasions that he had teams.

    Never understood why his thoughts were given the credence they were. People seemed to be fooled by his narcissistic witterings about ‘business models’ (which – conveniently – ignored the doping reputation that is the biggest factor in any supposed lack of sustainability). It’s a sport, not a business. And it should be run like a sport – as it largely has been for a century or so; miraculously without collapse.

    Owners/sponsors come and go – the sport continues. If it continues with a bit less money, that’s not that big a deal – except for the people who are in it to make money.

    • I could copy and paste your post, tone it down a bit and replace Tinkov with Vaughters. Maybe we’ll all get lucky and they both quit.

      To all your vitriol: it always has been a sport purposed for PR. Every team has a different strategy (watch Lefevere talk about the Giro), but the point is to get noticed for your sponsors. He did a pretty good job at that.

      I hope this means Bjarne is coming back. Maybe partnered with a newly retired Contador.

      • This argument: ‘it always has been a sport purposed for PR’ doesn’t wash. That’s not its purpose for fans of cycling and never has been. That’s its purpose for sponsors. But they’re not the most important people in cycling – the people who do it and watch it are.
        (And although that’s how many races started, cycling moved on: it’s been a while since the races have been about selling newspapers.)
        I also wonder how many potential custmers of his bank would have been impressed with his behaviour – never really came across to me as someone I’d want to invest any money with.
        However, my main gripe with Tinkov were his plans for cycling – otherwise I could have ignored his personality.
        I agree with your point about Vaughters – a man desperate to turn cycling into F1.

        • JV isn’t the same as Tinkoff because it’s not JV’s money that’s getting dumped. He’s the team owner, but he has a team sponsor.

          JV’s intentions are way better than Tinkoff’s though. He is trying to make cycling sustainable for all involved, which it isn’t. Everyone is quick to say that cycling shouldn’t be a vehicle to make money… but without money teams disappear, races disappear and this means that many people keep losing their jobs. And with that huge risk, it encourages people to dope. You can’t even argue against that.

          • I disagree. Personally, I believe that the constant sponsorship turnover creates a freshness that is missing in more staid, lumbering pro sport organizational structures. It seems as if people lose their jobs, but really it’s just a form of musical chairs; sponsors change, the team name changes, riders and support staff move, new collaborations are created and old collaborations reunite. I think it keeps things more interesting with another few layers to follow rather than just stats and salaries.

          • haha… turnover is bad.

            Sounds like you wish cycling was more about the drama of turnover, pretty much like a tabloid.

            The rest of us wish we could focus on cycling’s sports-related stats and debate about who will win the Tour next year. If i didn’t see another doping, turnover, owner/sponsor pulling out headline I’d be pretty happy. Cycling’s tabloid focus is pretty brutal. Sort of makes it as bad as the Kardashians reality TV show….

        • J Evans, you do talk some guff. Cycling started as a sport because people wanted to sell things. It has continued because people still do. Your amateur version of the sport as about “the fans” never existed. You bore me to tears.

          • haha, completely agree. Cycling would not exist at all without the sponsors paying the TV networks who pay ASO. ASO wouldn’t have existed without sponsoring a newspaper, and wouldn’t exist today without the marketing caravan ahead of the races or of local regions/cities sponsoring the stage starts, finishes.

            Teams wouldn’t exist without a sponsor, and most teams fail once a sponsor realises their cost benefit is pretty low from this sponsorship.

            Races fold every year without a sponsor, regardless of how much history and passion is behind the race.

            Teams that appear destined to last forever (eg. Euskatel) fold because people can’t afford to sponsor them anymore.

            The notion that cycling exists because of the dreams and desires of a higher moral is insane. It is a business, period. And by any single measure, it is a poor business to be in.

            No successful sport/business has this many owners saying that they want out because they can’t afford it.

          • I do agree with you both here, and DMC spells it right out.

            One thing though; Noel’s point below, that business is slow, is true almost around the world. A worldwide economic recession is not the best climate for sport sponsorship.

          • SirDaveBrailsford, I didn’t say that there was no purpose for the sponsors, I – clearly – said that cycling had another purpose and that this purpose was more important.
            To make it more apparent to you, note that I even said ‘That’s its purpose for sponsors.’
            As I specifically mentioned this, your comments about ‘amateur version of the sport’ have absolutely nothing to do with me and are purely of your own imagining. (Incidentally, there are amateur cycle races.)
            Sponsors and, indeed, team owners – and even teams (what will you do if Team Murdoch ceases to be?) – come and go. I never said that cycling would exist in their absence. To make it clear for you again, I’ll quote myself: ‘Owners/sponsors come and go – the sport continues.’
            Also, you say ‘Cycling started as a sport because people wanted to sell things.’ Yet, I had already said ‘(And although that’s how many races started, cycling moved on: it’s been a while since the races have been about selling newspapers.)’
            Perhaps your boredom has something to do with your failure to comprehend what I wrote almost in its entirety? I don’t know. Or care.
            What I did point out was the fact that cycling has been going for over a century – long before newbies came along crying that it needed to follow their corporate beliefs.
            Only the gullible swallow – uncritically – the wailings about cycling needing more money to survive when the people doing the wailing are the ones who stand to receive that money.

          • SirDaveBrailsford,

            Sorry, that’s wrong. Cycling and cycle races existed and were popular before the big sponsored races that are still around today. The sponsors latched on to cycle racing precisely *because* of the huge popularity of cycling – they didn’t take some obscure thing and make it popular. And, by the way, the cycling boom started in the late 19th century – 1880s on or so. Well before, e.g., the Tour started.

      • I don`t get your point. What has this to do with Vaughters? And why has this to lead to Bjarne coming back?

        I certainly don`t hope for that

        • Vaughters, one of the more incompetent dopers, was pretty noisy about his very trendy “clean team”. While his motivation was/is a little different than Tinkov (Vaughters needs the income), they’re both more garish noise than content.

          Bjarne is the #1 potential buyer for the Team Tinkoff pieces with a sponsor all lined up.

          I do hope for that. Riis is pretty talented.

          • The clean label was very important to them and almost a Unique Selling Point. But it’s no longer so prominent, neither that useful in a sport with a lot fewer scandals. If all teams need an ID and a mission what do they do now? Having a good story to tell is very good for attracting sponsors, see the way Dimension Data and Deloitte are replacing MTN.

    • +1 The only bad part in this story is “Tinkov is not out of the sport yet, he’s got at least a year left…” It’ll be hard not to laugh if Riis and Saxo end up taking the thing over for pennies on the dollar. Tinkoff has finally been forced to admit that just because you have lots of dough, sporting success is not assured. Lots of rich people seem to have a tough time accepting the idea that money can’t buy happiness.

      • Haha, yeah, it would be great to see Riis pay 100,000 or something to Tinkoff for the team, which is a tiny fraction of what Oleg paid him for Saxo Bank.

        Oleg’s the worst negotiator ever… telling everyone he’s gone at end of 2016, regardless of what happens, and therefore any potential buyer has only to wait until December 30, 2016 to say, “here’s $17 USD, which translates to a lot of Rubles”. OR, that potential owner can apply prior to the UCI to fill one of the other vacant WT spots.

    • Mr Evans, how many races to do think there would be if there were no sponsors for teams or races? Let me tell you: zero! You do not live in real world!

      • It takes two individuals and two bikes. Team buses, Croatian training camps and sports testing facilities are all super cool. But this sport is fundamentally about hard-nosed individuals ridiculously driven to lock horns. If the “luxury” is unsustainable so be it. But bike racing isn’t going anywhere. It survived and thrived without all the superfluity and we pine over classic photos of just such basic competition. It’s that essence that gets cyclically hijacked, however the core presses on.

      • Simply not what I said.
        See reply above to SirDave.
        Person A incorrectly says that person B has said this, then persons C, D, E, etc. comment on this erroneous statement.
        As you can see in my comments above, at no point do I say that sponsorship is not necessary.

        • And please know, at no point am I saying sponsorship is not necessary or desired. Simply that the luxuries and arms race to keep up with the jones’ can become unsustainable and off-putting so as to deter legitimate long term sponsors. I want talented cyclists to have the opportunity to make a living competing in the sport they and we all love.

    • Although the people in the sport to make money include all the riders. (Other than any who have a trust fund/better job lined up elsewhere.) They may get into it because it’s fun, but they can only afford to keep doing it if they get paid.

      • Yes, I was including the riders in the statement:
        ‘If it continues with a bit less money, that’s not that big a deal – except for the people who are in it to make money.’
        If there’s less money in cycling, the riders will make less money. That’s not a good thing – especially for the lower paid riders – but they were paid badly before and they still did it.
        This is my point in a nutshell: the money is not the most important issue.
        (And to reiterate to some above, that is not the same as saying that cycling doesn’t need to make any money – that’s why I said ‘a bit less money’ and not ‘no money’.)

        • Monsieur Evans, would you like to elaborate how much is a “bit less money”?
          A figure?
          If Tinkov goes, and others follow, and teams regress and the world class athletes are not attracted or cannot be developed anymore, will your £4.50 monthly Eurosport subscription (which you spent most of the Summer complaining about anyway) still be available?
          Your ideal 1960’s cycling world may return, only you shan’t be able to see it.
          (I very much enjoy your posts by the way, so please don’t take my point in the wrong way).

          • ‘Your ideal 1960’s cycling world may return, only you shan’t be able to see it.’ – Nope, not mine: that statement is nothing to do with me.
            My £4 (a bargain!) Eurosport subscription allows me to see all sorts of niche sports, featuring world class athletes, which don’t have a huge amount of money backing them. Tonight I can watch biathlon; tomorrow, ski jumping and figure skating.
            I don’t know much about these sports, but I assume they’re not swimming in cash. Cycling has been on TV for decades: the idea that it could be about to stop being so is something you just invented, so again, nothing to do with me.
            People were fooled by the Big Tex bonanza into thinking that cycling would become a huge money-spinner. Now they seem unable to get past the fact that it’s not.
            See Larry’s comment below.
            People are believing the hype of those who want to make money: ‘If we do this, we’ll make $$$. If we don’t change, the sport will die because of a lack of money’.

        • +1 Money isn’t everything. How many sports MAKE money? Why should they make money beyond what it takes to keep them going? Once it becomes merely a business (and I remind you that so far, folks don’t tune in to watch TV shows about hedgefund managers at work) too many decisions start revolving around business/profit issues rather than sporting ones. Tinkoff seemed to think he could rally other team owners to recreate pro cycling purely as business, but it seems they either weren’t interested or weren’t interested in doing it his way. I just wish he’d bailed out at the end of this season so we could truly be rid of him.

          • As a cycling fan, I am now reassured by your business plan JE.
            The future of cycling, and our enjoyment of it on the screen, is in safe hands.

          • Totally agree regarding why should cycling MAKE money. My guess is that cycling would eventually sort itself out. Sponsor would only continue at a level that makes sense to them in terms of ROI. If teams & riders are too expansive, they simply cannot carry on. Teams dissolve and riders got picked up by other teams at discounted value and other team save their budget.

            However, I think you are wrong in your statement that “folks don’t tune on TV to see hedge fund manager working”. Actually, folks turn up in movie theatres to watch a movie about “hedge fund manager working”. That said, I salute the talent of those writers who can turn “the Big Short” into a Hollywood style thriller.

    • The hate for this guy is laughable……he chipped in to contribute to the sport and run one of its highest profile teams. A bit of a wild card, he’s at least breathed some excitement into an old world, staid sport. His team, his money….he can do whatever he likes.

      Mark Cuban does the same thing in basketball but everyone loves him. Maybe the cycling shorts are keeping y’all’s blood from circulating properly.

      • Yeah, he can do whatever he likes. Well… that is he can do whatever he likes until his stocks plummet (oh, that already happened) and his currency-dependent company’s currency falls into the tank (oh, that already happened)… so, yeah he can pretty much do whatever he wants, which includes pay out about 30M USD next year for a sports team while his company continues to lose many millions of USD.

        Now, Mark Cuban can do whatever he wants because his team makes money for him, and his companies make money for him and his companies/team are all in very strong situations while Tinkov panics all year long…..

        Tinkov is in it deep… serves him right.

  2. I certainly won’t miss Oleg. These Oligarchs or whatever you want to call them aren’t used to being told no and it sounds like he’s threw his dolls out of the pram once he’s realised his plans aren’t being realised . People like this who are obsessed with money don’t seem to understand that not everyone is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he popped up in another sport where you can make money, such as football. It’ll be interesting to see who buys the team (if he does actually go, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was just an attempt at blackmail), weren’t there noises about Nibali forming an Italian team when his Astana contract expires at the end of this year? This would be an easy way in, Segafredo and Mapei have linked up with Trek, maybe they could go it alone next year?

    • Much though I detested his racism, sexism, homophobia and everything else you could think of….he does love riding his bike, and no one can deny that. Not many team owners rode each stage of the Giro in the mornings.

      • It’s one clue of just how passionate a cyclist he is. This doesn’t make everything else alright but explains why the shrewd businessman has splurged tens of millions on the team for fun, not profit. That’s surely why he really went into it.

        • Same with a lot of these sugar daddy types, all the way up to Abramovich and the Al Nahyans. Even though they speak of sports teams as business investments, in reality they treat them as consumer goods, like a really expensive season ticket.

  3. I am sorry, I have to say it with these words, but to say it I have:
    The strange idea of a worldwide sport, which never made sense to me, has resulted in riders and supportingstuff being shipped around the world to whomever pays for them or wants to see them. This is nothing wrong or bad in itself, but then let’s keep it real and honest: Then this is a showgroup, like a circus or the Globetrotters. Nothing wrong with that – but let’s stop pretending it is a sport or of sporting value to do this. What it is, is a sporting activity with the main focus on earning enough money to keep a questionable status quo. Still not too much wrong with that. Where things really go wrong, is when you want to run a show with the rules and ways of a sport or vice versa. We all play along and pretend as if pro cycling is still is to be taken serious in it’s decisions, with it’s various team owners, with federations reacting to social media in an instant, but it gets harder every year.
    I think the only way for pro cycling is to finally wake up from the inflated dream of the 2000-er years. To make sure that running a team isn’t costing more than let’s say 10 millions, that races make sense in the way that there are local people supporting it and wanting to watch it and that it doesn’t cost someone thousands to import teams/riders (not to mention the cost to the environment). To prune back the rulebook to get from a total overregulated control-obsessed sport to a sport that can breathe, change and grow. To races that are really raced instead of being calculated. To stop focussing on watching races for that one instance, where we can get morally enraged and can condemn someone and where we begin again to relax and enjoy them.
    One of the biggest problem lies to me in the head and the imagination of the people in charge of teams: Instead of getting obsessed with the longevity of sponsors, why not see it as an asset, that cycling can offer new opportunities to companies every year? Instead of holding on and clinging for dear life to a sponsor who sees cycling only as a chance to get his brand known, why not see it the same way? It seems as teams want to find a friend, while a sponsor simply wants to, well, sponsor. Classical case of different expectations. To see it this way, teams would have to separate their marketing from the sporting side. They would have to actively seek out brands, companies and offer them deals: A big car company has a new environment-friendly car on the market-well, cycling can give you a wide visibility and the best thing is: You don’t have to committ for an unknown quantity of time, but only for one year or the time you need to get your brand going. Instead cycling seems to look for lifelong friends. From the outside this seems to be the (felt) difference between the teams and ASO. ASO goes actively about doing their business, not selling themselves as insecure and dependent (ok, sometimes they go over the top with that, but who is without fault), while the teams only ever see the shortcomings and want others to deliver them to their luck. This may well be a psychological result of a sponsored sport, where you are always at the mercy of another being/company. But it is on the teams to rise above this and evolve, find some self respect and get their act together instead of looking with jealousy at what others have and trying to divide, take away and belittle others. VELON and the shameful VELON addendum or contracts with proposals in it as shown in the addendum -in short: putting ever more pressure onto those with the least ability to push back against the pressure- are surely not the way. Sorry, have nothing to say to Oleg. Like you, I noticed a few months ago, that he stopped caring the way he did before, so something like this was to be expected. With announcing it now, he makes sure it is all about him next year, no matter if the riders perform better or worse, it will all be redirected to him and HIS decision, so he follows his typical path of keeping control. Poor soul. Although I am not so sure he really leaves. Oh, seems I did have something to say about him after all!

  4. ultimately I think this probably has more to do with the Ruble halving in value over the last 18mths than anything to do with cycling… running a credit business in Russia with the economy tanking means he’s going to have plenty on his plate in the next year or two without having to think about an expensive (euro denominated) plaything…

    • A good point, the currency has fallen but we don’t know about Tinkov’s wealth. He sold a large stake in his bank before the crisis so got rich and presumably would have held the proceeds in a mix of safe assets, ie not the Rouble.

      • Inrng – in 2012 he sold a minority stake, and the current total market cap of Tinkoff is $500M (USD). Based on this, it’s a fair assumption Tinkoff isn’t nearly as rich/big time as he makes out. He’s not even a billionaire, which people thinks he is. His current annual expense in cycling is approximately 1/3rd of his company’s net income BEFORE he splits this with his minority shareholder.

        That was based on 2014 income (which was a significant drop from 2013). Based on the exchange rates 2015 will be much much worse, so presumably his personal share of the net income of Tinkoff Credit Systems might not even cover his Tinkoff Cycling Team expense.

        His shares are tanking, and currently are an expensive penny stock. They’re down to 10% of what they were 24 months ago. Financially he’s potentially in big trouble based on the way his company is structured. His entire wealth in his company is tied to the ability of his customers paying him back, and assuming they’re all feeling the same ruble-pinch that he his, this is very bad news for him.

          • Yeah, impossible for us to know exactly how much money’s kept personally, but I’m assuming he’s kept the majority of his wealth in his company. Especially because Tinkov Credit Systems relies heavily on the shareholders’ providing cash to initiate its’ holding base.

            He sold his brewery for 167 M Euros, so he probably put all of that into Credit Systems, which now is worth $500M USD. My guess (and I could be wrong) is that his personal stake is well over half of that, and that his own personal investments in other securities is far less than $500M USD, so he might be a billionaire many times over in Rubles, he’s definitely not a Billionaire in a hard currency. (not even in Canadian Dollars, haha).

  5. Goodbye Tinkoff, you will not be missed.

    The man who will be remembered for single handedly inflating riders wages and emptying his own wallet at the same time, within months of his arrival, without really ever seeming to understand the basic financial model the sport has operated under since its inception. He has apparently left with the same lack of understanding.

    Probably the best thing to come out a a mass ‘sugar daddy’ walk out, would be to return the sport to a financial level where it has some chance of long term survival.

    • EXACTLY! It’s pretty much all Oleg’s fault that other teams can’t afford much talent in 2016. You see small budget French teams that have been, and will be, around for 1-2 decades who’s entire salary budget is less than Tinkoff’s most expensive rider.

  6. I used to feel bad when Tinkoff got booted by Katusha’s owners (remember Oleg formed Katusha), but I haven’t for a long time. All he is is a windbag who wants to make quick money and then bounce. If his intentions were really to help improve cycling, then he would stick around and help to craft the sport. But he won’t because he’s a selfish narcissist who only cares about his own personal interests.

    And, how’s he going to sell his team for top-dollar without a sponsor attached to it? Why would anyone purchase a team that can easily go bust less than a year after Tinkoff leaves?

    In hindsight, good on Bjarne Riis for selling to Tinkoff and then getting himself thrown off the team.

    After December 31, 2016, Tinkoff Cycling Team effectively has zero value. They don’t have a World Tour license for 2017-2020 yet (correct me if I’m wrong), there’s no DS/Team Manager with anything close to a sponsorship agreement, and don’t have a strong lineup signed for 2017-2020 either. Contador will be gone, Rogers will be retired too, etc.

    I agree with those that think this is more to do with Tinkoff’s other businesses being tied to the Russian Ruble, that’s a huge factor, and he cannot continue to sink 30 million Euro’s per year when his exchange rate is very unfavourable to him.

    But, in hindsight the Tinkoff era will be remembered as a pink-haired version of the surreal life.

  7. “sugardaddy shake-out”….good one! Yes, it’s coming. Katusha is actively seeking a new sponsor for 2016 and beyond; Itera (spelled backwards on new K team jersey?!) has their funding commitment finish this year, and IVM is funding the team himself in 2016. Thus the new image for the team and the upcoming merchandise. (Who would buy merchandise from the most unpopular team in the peloton. BTW, Katusha was originally called Tinkoff, but the Russian entrepreneur sold it to Makarov, who renamed it Katusha after his wife, Katarina.

    As for Vaughters; team owner Doug Ellis of Slipstream Sports is still putting in over $5 million a year for the team and Vaughters, although an “owner”, really has no equity in Team Cannondale; the $ comes from the bike co & Ellis.

  8. I’m going to be a contrarian and say a few words on behalf of Oleg. Yes a lot of the time he comes across as an obnoxious bigot and clown who really should have his phone confiscated and his Twitter account deleted, but pro cycling will be poorer for having lost him. Yes there is no quick fix to the stability issues with teams and sponsorship, but at least Oleg’s pushing this. And not just from the outside or, as someone mentioned above, like Johnathan Vaughters who is a manager not a sponsor. Tinkov is putting up his own cash so therefore deserves more of a hearing than most armchair commentators. To borrow a line from Teddy Roosevelt, only the man in the arena deserves respect. He tried to reform cycling, but realised it wasn’t going to happen, and even if the ASO don’t exactly have deep pockets they can share with the teams, everyone else cowering in front of them and letting them dominate the sport isn’t ideal either as there ASO’s number one priority is not the long term sustainability of cycling year round, but making money, and since they have the golden (yellow) goose in the TDF, they have no real incentive to change.

    So it’s easy to point and laugh at Oleg’s Trump-esq brain farts he regularly puts out, but if you look past his bluster you’ll see a pretty shrewd businessman and passionate cyclist. Pity it didn’t work out for him, but that’s life. Oh yeah, and at least unlike Riis and so many others he’s not an unrepentant former doper.

    • He’s been like a court jester at times, we laugh at his “jokes” (or cringe) but he’s also raised issues that merit discussion. Discussion never went too far and as we can see with his parting shots, he takes potshots at his allies as well as enemies too. Which often makes it harder to look at the message behind the madness.

    • True. But if Tyler Hamilton is to be believed, when Tinkov owned his first team, Tinkoff Credit Systems, his mantra as team owner was ‘do what you want, just don’t get caught’

      So we’re not exactly talking the Angel of the East here

  9. I’m sad to see him go, for the sport personally I have little time for him, but his commitment, financial and emotional to pro-cycling are to be commended. I don’t think he’s made the shrewdest investment with Saxo in fact the only person who seems to have done spectacularly well is Riis.
    Teams are surely a promotional tool they shouldn’t exist as a play thing of the rich, it seems tragic that as cycling seems to be clearing out the old doping rot that it’s potentially loosing financial input from investors.
    I’ certainly not in favour of a wage cap (it’s certainly not legal within the EU I wouldn’t have thought) Maybe though there’s the capacity for a set level of maximum investment in a team with a set budgetary level of maximum expenditure. Hopefully creating a level playing field.
    I don’t think pay TV is a way to go in the UK, Pay TV has removed cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, F1, Football (to some extent) to larger audiences which if one is having teams run as promotional tools seems like madness?
    I’ll b honest I don’t know what the answer is but teams certainly do need some way of gaining a pay off or surely it’s game over.

    • As a few have said above, cycling will survive, even though there will definitely be ups and downs in its future. It’ll never be “game over”, as there will always be riders willing to race their tails off for not a whole lot of money.

      My question to you is, why is a wage cap not legal in the EU? Is there a law against wage caps?

      • A salary cap is potentially illegal in the EU because it restricts competition. For instance, if the teams were to agree amongst themselves that they would never pay more than €1m for a rider, that restricts the ability of riders to obtain the best price for their services by restricting teams’ abilities to compete for them. It also restricts the rights of EU citizens to move freely for work (e.g., an Italian won’t be able to move to a Belgian team as easily if they have no room left under the salary cap to pay him).

        So there would either have to be a “collective bargaining agreement” between a body representing all WT teams and another representing all WT riders, which seems pretty unlikely, given the presence of WT teams outside the EU, or any cap that is agreed would run the risk of being declared illegal if a disgruntled rider or agent sued. In that case, the teams would have to justify the cap under a narrow range of grounds, which don’t include “because we wanted to keep more money for ourselves”.

        • Thanks for the extra information. I see the scope of the problem now. It’s fairly obvious how hard a collective bargaining agreement would be to sort out. There’s so many nationalities, the ownership picture changes pretty significantly each year, teams and racers don’t have adequate representation, and the list of problems goes on and on and on… not to mention the amount of legal fees it takes to actually negotiate and draft a collective bargaining agreement with this many jurisdictions could cover most of one team’s annual budget! The agreement would have to be airtight in every jurisdiction these teams race in, have team ownership in, etc.

          Imagine the mess of preparing a CBA for a Russian team, American team, DUBAI (UAE) team, South African team, a British team, and then a handful of European (Euro Zone) teams… haha. You’d need at least 6 agreements!

        • Rugby Union in the UK has a wage structure that is always referred to as a Salary Cap – some players end up going to France to earn more money but then the English RFU refuses to select them for Internationals.

  10. I am always uncomfortable with the way INRNG uses the term “sugardaddy’ with a sarcastic tone to it, (as it seems to me.)

    How does INRNG expect cycling to be funded??

    All the big leagues that are making millions and billions of profits are funded by sugar daddies.

    Where I live (North America), think NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. :
    – Strong and stable organizations (that don’t take the name of a sponsor)
    – Strong and stable players unions.
    – Strong marketing skills.
    – Openness to new ideas.
    – Etc, etc.

    Pro cycling, as it is now, does not need to deal with revenue sharing (yet), it needs more than anything to shake up it traditionalist-stuck-in-the-old-times approach to business.

    I felt that it is what Tinkov wanted to do.

    He will be missed. And pro road cycling will still be an archaic, laughable, completely disorganized sport.

    It is sad, really.

    • DNF – didn’t your argument disprove itself?

      You said “All the big leagues that are making millions and billions of profits are funded by sugar daddies.”, and then you listed 4 characteristics of “big leagues”, none of which included sugar daddies.

      And, as you implied NONE of the successful big leagues actually have sugar daddies. They all do something called “selling tickets and TV rights”. Cycling does none of the former, and barely does the latter.

      Oleg forgot this when he invested into cycling, and then tried to change things without finding a way to fix this problem. Ticket sales and TV revenue are the two largest reasons any league is profitable. Cycling still hasn’t cracked that nut.

      Well, it did crack the nut that was Oleg.

      • Yes, my mistake, English is not my first language, I spotted that too afterwards !

        What I meant was, that the North American pro teams are owned by sugar daddies.

        • haha, no they’re not. North American teams are owned by people called “investors”, most of whom make large returns on their investments.

          Sugar daddies implies that the team/company/spouse doesn’t provide any money of their own and therefore the daddy has to dump money into them each year.

          North American professional sports teams, or the vast majority of them, make a lot of money each year. They GIVE money to their investors, which is the exact opposite of how a sugar daddy relationship works.

          • I think most North American pro sports FRANCHISES (don’t forget) are owned by plutocrats (the NFL Green Bay Packers are one exception) who enjoy anti-trust exemptions and huge taxpayer-funded facilities to showcase their events. Most of ’em get their talent development provided by college teams at zero cost. Now they even own online betting schemes to fleece the rubes out of even more money while fewer and fewer games are broadcast free over-the-air. Every time someone suggests pro cycling follow this model I recoil in horror!!!
            Despite my term “rich, chamois-sniffers” I see no real problem with these types, since they’re not really about making profits they can (and sometimes do) care more about sporting values than a cold, return-on-investment calculation. If that’s all Tinkoff was I would sort of miss him, but this crass commercialism, sexism, racism and megalomania far overshadow any benefits he brought the sport. The sooner his name stops showing up connected to pro cycling, the better!

          • Larry – I agree with you on a lot of levels here. I was merely responding to the term “sugar daddy” in comparing cycling with professional sports teams that operate for profits.

            Also, you’re bang-on correct how unfair it is that those sports get taxpayer-funded stadium to play in.

            Tinkoff definitely needs to go, and cycling definitely needs to do something to become more sustainable… that’s the dilemna, isn’t it? And I have no idea how to fix it, and nor do I have enough money to consider being a help.

          • And traditionally, the term “sugar daddy” has a sexual undertone to it because it referred to rich old lusty men spending loads of money on young beautiful women, who exchanged sexual favors for this attention. Kind of creepy in this context with Oleg and Peter,…and El Pistolero!

    • One more thing – to your point “Pro cycling… does not need to deal with revenue sharing (yet)”. How can you share revenue when there isn’t any real revenue? It would be a great problem to have if cycling actually had revenue to share and the issue of how to divide it.

      • Proc cycling will need to deal with revenue sharing when they will have revenues to share!

        (ie you need to think ahead/before, to have business, marketing plans, contracts, arrangements, deals, and then, hopefully, revenues will come, and then could be shared. You can’t share revenues if you don’t have them or don’t know how to generate them in the first place. That is what i meant!)

        • Well, they’re going to be planning/thinking LONG into the future then… there really is no real plan to get significant revenue anytime in the foreseeable future.

          This is a tough situation, but it’s the problem that cycling has had for a long long time. How do you create revenue in a sport that operates 99% of the time on open roads where anyone can watch. The sport itself is not conducive to ticket sales, unlike most other sports. So how do you make money off it?

          • If you look at football, or at least in terms of 2014 World Cup, ticketing income (527m USD) is only 1/3rd of “marketing rights (1580m USD)” & almost 1/5th of “TV rights (2428m USD)”.

            Marketing rights are essentially sponsorship, which cycling is more or less relying solely on at the moment. I wouldn’t say cycling is doing extremely bad on that side. Actually, it is providing especially good value for money. Even Sky costed a mere 30m GBP a year, a fraction of what it costs to sponsor a mediocre football team, and you’ve got a Tour wining cycling team. What is lacking is probably marketing muscle to sell sponsorship for more and the ability to condense Brand Equity.

            What cycling isn’t doing so well on is TV rights. We would probably have to admit that cycling is no where as popular as football and there simply aren’t that many people watching cycling. On the other hand, French government made TV board casting free in France and rob cycling a major TV licence income. To be honest, French Government probably should sponsor TDF to some extent as ASO is essentially providing an event to re-affirm French Patriotism (a public good) for free. It shouldn’t fall to a private company to provide such public goods.

  11. My hope is that the sport will once again attract sponsors who are prepared to pay a sum of money that they feel gives them a reasonable financial return over a given period of time. The egotistical model being followed at present by some wealthy individuals has greatly distorted the market – top riders salaries, and left the sport the poorer.

    As far as I can see there is not one magicical panacea whereby teams can generate significant additional revenue outside the tried and tested sponsorship model. Tinkoffs greatest failure as a self professed businessman, was not to see or understand the blindingly obvious.

    If there is such a panacea, perhaps someone can enlighten me.

    • The other thing about Tinkoff – this is a guy who started out making profits by breaking the law, as in smuggling. Just like that guy with the dead squirrel on his head running for US president, he has built a questionable reputation as a business genius, despite his current woes. They say if “dead-squirrel-hair” had simply invested his daddy’s $ in the S&P 500 he’d have twice the net-worth today…but he’ll bluster all day about how smart and shrewd he is – just like Tinkoff.

    • Exactly, and that’s one area where cycling needs to mimic pro-sports (sorry Larry for saying this, but hold on, I’ll explain myself).

      Cycling usually takes any potential sponsor, owner, etc. without question. The UCI’s ethical standard criteria is, and may slowly change this, but for the time being it hasn’t been able to be enacted (eg. Katusha being re-instated by appeal – but this issue could be discussed even further).

      Most North American professional sports have an ownership group that must agree (democratically amongst the group) on a potential owner. For example, the NHL’s owners rejected RIM’s founder, Mr. Balsilie, from owning a team a few years ago. Cycling on the other hand, took Oleg in. Obviously, this is very complicated, but would cycling have been better off if it had rejected Oleg’s purchase offer and Bjarne Riis was still the owner of Team Saxo Bank?

      • Good point! Doesn’t the UCI have some sort of criteria about persons “fit and proper” to own teams? The NBA forced the sale of the Clippers franchise after the owner was recorded making some nasty remarks about someone’s race or religion. Similar stuff should have DQ’d a jerk like Tinkoff right away….but the elephant in the room (the almost continuous doping scandals) has sadly put the sport in the “beggars can’t be choosers” category. Otherwise Katusha and Astana too are tough to justify when it comes to “fit and proper” along with perhaps a few others? While I don’t really want to see Mr. 60% back in the sport, there would be some perverted joy in seeing him get the team back for a tiny fraction of what he got Tinkoff to cough up. Probably the most nervous guy out there (sadly) is going to be Peter Sagan…will he even get paid for the 2nd of his 3-year contract when Tinkoff gives cycling the finger and bails out?

        • If his accountant is worth anything then he could probably live the rest of his life on a beach just on the basis of the first year of his contract, never mind the first too. A beach in Monaco even.

  12. Good article, with excellent points made about the sport going forward.

    I look forward to never reading another word about him. I suspect, however, he’ll take every opportunity this year to remind me why…

  13. One thing about the “cycling will always survive” point :
    it probably would, to some degree and at least in it’s traditional heartlands. But if there’s no money in it, 90 % of the races are not going to get shown on television!
    No helicopter, no motos, no daily update websites, no Inrng!?
    But I am sure that you will enjoy reading all about them in L’Equipe and Het Nieuwsblad..

  14. Perhaps he did add to the gaiety of nations, and did speak out about some of the problems the sport faces as a business. And when it comes to the league of Russian gobsh!tery, he’s barely pro-conti, let alone WT. But ultimately he’s a prize pillock who we can do without.

    As to bigger questions about the future of the funding of the sport, I sense that it’ll to continue to rattle on. The outflux of wealthy owners is a bit of a worry, but it has enough of a market to remain a sponsor-able product and is, I’d argue, in a better place than it was five or ten years ago.

    Quickly on pay TV, Raouligan is absolutely right – with the exception of football, an inescapable national passion – pay tv has pretty much done for cricket, rugby, F1 and (most of all) boxing as genuinely popular national sports. We need more free-to-air cycling (in the UK at least), not less.

  15. I guess if Riis buys the team with Saxo’s backing. Bert and Riis get on fine. I suspect it will end up hinging on next year’s Tour – if he gets beaten again by Froome and Quintana, and with no Giro in his legs to point to, I’m not sure even Bert can kid himself that he’s the best Tour rider. And he doesnt strike me as the sort to be content with continuing, living off Vuelta or even Giro wins.

    • Good point. But, equally, if he did win the Tour would he not want to risk the ‘best rider of his generation’ tag by keeping going?
      For me, the jury on Contador is always going to be out – I just don’t think one can know for sure how good he actually was. Definitely the most entertaining grand tour rider of his generation, though.

      • Your jury might debate if he actually was the *strongest* (were his watts a by-product of doping?), but there’s little doubt to cast about him being the best of the last decade.
        Note that the same can’t be said about Lance, for example (even if I’m far from dismissing that guy as a pure fake… still there’s a huge difference between the two and what they could prove).

        I’d also add that this remains a *relative* judgement, that is, the level in GTs during those years wasn’t at an historical top as it was, say, in the Classics. Contador might as well enter in a “post-war top-ten” of GT riders, but quite probably in the last couple of positions (not a meager feat, indeed, but below the place his palmarés as such would imply).

        • Are you saying that Contador was for sure the best rider of his generation and that Lance definitely wasn’t the best of his? Your wording is confusing.

          • Sorry, I’ve left something out, indeed. Contador has been without doubt the best GT rider of his generation (a decade more or less), whereas the same can’t be said – with that same level of confidence – about Lance. That’s it. I’ll answer later to the someway confused statements you added below.

          • Here I am. Let’s see. First of all, I need to point out that what I’m saying is that there can’t be many doubts when one says Contador has been the best GT rider of his generation, whereas the same can’t be said for Armstrong: that is, he may have been – or not (which is not like saying that “he definitely wasn’t”). Also note the difference between “the strongest” and “the best”.
            That said, it must be acknowledged that Lance’s situation was very different from anyone else in cycling, as far as we know.
            Other riders got “covered” or “protected” by the UCI, but that rarely (if ever) was so *personal*. And the level of economic and political power reached by Armstrong is unrivalled. He was at the centre of a doping-institutional complex which, because of its same nature, had huge implications on the competition, well beyond “performance enhancement”.
            Disliked rivals could be put under antidoping pressure, which not only generated a difference in the available level of free-use of doping, but also created a strategic pressure within the peloton not to race against the king. E.g., people were “forced” (or *persuaded*) not to collaborate in a break that didn’t have the blessing of the leader. Athletes who dared a direct attack received threats and were punished during the races… or, even worse, at a higher level.
            That all necessarily changed the way the Tour was raced, besides the obvious difference in quality and quantity of doping allowed by the perverted relation with the controllers (we had access to some of Fuentes’ programs, for example, and they sometimes show that the athlete wasn’t receiving transfusions or other products during the race itself).

            Contador was kept out from a Tour de France (because of “what his team – with a different staff – did”). Armstrong was the one deciding who wasn’t going to be invited.
            During Armstrong’s reign, everything both within his team and among the authorities was strictly functional to his victories. Contador has underwent several political changes both in the institutional structure of the sport and in the teams he was riding for, which unavoidably ended up hindering, on the one hand, the effectiveness of political protection (look, the CIRC report observes anomalies both on favour and *against* Contador in the clenbuterol process… which, in itself, says a lot about the difference between the two situations, when compared with back-dated recipes and seizure of prohibited substances), on the other hand, the support his team could grant him, whether it happened since the team wasn’t such a perfect doped-machine (the troubles between Saiz and Fuentes are just an example) or just because they simply didn’t want to help being among the ranks of another faction of the team.

            To sum it up, Contador has been an example of a rather classic cycling champion: protected by the authorities, no doubt (as in every sport), as long as protecting him has no relevant cost, promptly sacrificed if the situation requires that. An essentially monodirectional relation, where the athlete doesn’t look to possess direct power over the authorities, be it “only” to negotiate the most appreciated conditions.
            The consequence is that the Armstrong system generated such an asymmetry that it becomes hard to even conceive that as a remotely or globally levelled – however uneven – playing field. It was a pyramid.

            Then, there are the technical points. Armstrong always relied a lot on his team to achieve success, and that made the doping factor, within the organisation exposed above, exponentially more decisive. Contador proved many times he could do without a strong support team – even better, against “his own” team (ever listened to the radio conversation with Bruyneel in 2009?), with all that it may imply on *every* level.
            Armstrong always won the same way, typically – even if not exclusively – dominating the first part of the race, when power peaks (hence, doping induced differences) grow higher. Moreover, he always reacted the same way to difficulties: putting down the competition to a limited-in-time, stage-finale-oriented power exercise. This technical characteristics are easily supported through doping, but that’s not my main point. My point is that they show how much your ability to win is reduced to “being the strongest”. Which isn’t necessarily “the best”, besides being quite a lot doping-dependant.
            In fact, when put under pressure, Armstrong risked a lot and even went near to panicking (the famous in-race phone call with Ferrari)… luckily for him, even when in dire straits, the “extra power” he had exhibited before was always enough to get the victory – obviously, also with the help of the controlled race dynamics produced by his team or induced in others by the political situation.
            Contador has proven that he can win – a GT, not a stage – when he’s not the top dog in terms of pure power. To do that, he needs to have some sort of skills which go beyond doping.
            *Those* skills are the ones which make the “best” rider.
            Sometimes he won through physical superiority, indeed, but it rarely was just about that (even if it happened). More often than not he displayed both, but that’s not the point. The point is that he could have won a good number of the GTs he did win even if we decide that we take away from him that 3-4% extra power. Would he win less, in that extreme case? (I say “extreme” since I doubt that he could really enjoy such a positive doping differential when compared to the competitors all along his career). Don’t know, maybe yes. But probably he’d still have enough victories to be the best GT rider of his decade.

            Finally, to be the best GTs rider, you must prove it through all the GTs. They’re different, and they were even more different some 5-6 years ago. The abilities to excel all over them is significantly superior to those shown winning only the one that fits you better. Your point about “the GT he raced” is quite laughable if the guy takes seriously part only in one of the three GTs (I don’t even bother to mention the GTs in which he took part with lesser results…). It’s like supposing that a cobbles specialist will necessarily be good in all the Monuments. Feel assured, if he doesn’t show up in Lombardia it doesn’t mean he’d win it just because he’s winning, say, the Roubaix, which is more famous and rich and important.

            I’ll finish with a pro-Lance note. His competitors were way stronger than Contador’s. That’s why the guy isn’t a complete fake. Yet, the pharmacopolitical anomaly which he represented with reference to, well, the whole cycling history means that we really can’t say if he deserved to be so dominant on that scene.

          • I think you give Lance more credit than he deserves. It sounds like you’re saying Lance controlled UCI, made the ASO invite teams he wanted to race against, etc.

            I don’t want to address all the points you made, it’s too much. But, you bring up a lot of topics that make the debate of Lance vs. Contador impossible to resolve now. Maybe one day we can have this discussion… Hopefully in 40 years Inrng will still be blogging.

          • @DMC… Heck, with this Reply system I don’t know where my last comment ended. I’ll try to post it again to make it stick to your last answer. If I can 😛

          • Let’s see… Here it is again:

            “Credit” time is over, it’s been all put down in black and white. Take your time and give a read to the several official reports on the subject.

            However, I didn’t say that Lance “controlled” the UCI. They simply were *best friends*, with friends of friends moving a whole lot of money for their friends. Verbrugge controlled the UCI, FWIW – it really makes little difference. What I wrote about antidoping policies has been long proven. And have a look to the Tour’s official sponsors, too.

            Perhaps the “pyramid” image and a couple of other metaphors gave a wrong impression about Lance being alone on the top… in fact, it was a group of power and “complicity” may just be a better word – that implies a degree of mutual control, indeed.
            “Conspiracy” is the exact term he’s been nailed for. If it was just doping, some statute of limitations would have applied.

            There’s no much place anymore to debate about Armstrong, nor there will be in ten or forty years. That moment expired some three years ago, now it’s just about informing oneself.

            Maybe you believe that “the same” will surface about Contador, but I strongly doubt he might ever be in such terms with McQuaid *and* Cookson, to start with – or with the USA and France Presidents, to the point of asking and obtaining the removal of the French NADO chief, you know. The kind of pretty details you can find out there reading the press. On, say, Le Monde, not on some conspiranoic forum.
            I really can’t see how people can still be so naif nowadays.

            Ah, and the technical points really don’t leave much room for debate, either. But I’ll concede that they’re harder to prove, it’s more about just watching the sport.

        • Sounds like that’s what you’re saying. If so, then didn’t Lance prove a lot more than Contador? Contador wasn’t always dominant, sometimes he barely won the Grand Tour he was racing.

          For example, Contador only won his first Tour because Rasmussen was kicked out. Then he won the next Tour in large part because Schleck’s chain fell off. And, don’t forget, Contador in the early part of his career was pretty “high octane”, which DEFINITELY had a lingering effect on his later career. So, in the later years, his early training with EPO/HGH/etc. gave him a bigger base than guys like Quintana, Froome, etc.

          He’s lucky he got off Operation Puerto, and then even after that, he was on doping programs. So, it’s impossible to say that Contador was dominant and Lance wasn’t.

          • Eee-gads, not the chain again.
            Pave stage; F Schleck crashes; Contador stuck behind him; A Schleck ‘attacks’ by sitting on Cancellara’s wheel; gains double the time that Contador gained via the chain.
            Another stage: Cancellara – whilst in yellow – neutralises the stage after Schleck, amongst others, had crashed and lost time.

          • JE – We could debate that tour all day long.

            Slightly different topic, do you (or anyone else) find it weird/strange that Contador finished 2nd in the Stage 1 ITT? He beat Wiggins, Tony Martin, Kloden and a handful of other TT specialists.

          • @DMC
            I’ll be back later (or tomorrow morning) for more, but you’re mixing up different Tours. And. Contador has always been quite strong in ITT. Plus, a 20′ all-in effort was especially apt for the preparation Contador brought into that Tour (and different from most ITTs). Finally, the stage you’re actually describing wasn’t pan flat, which gave an edge to GC athletes who can both TT and climb decently, like Klöden, Evans, Leipheimer, Kreuziger, Nibali… they all were up there in the top ten.

            Speaking of Evans… through the years he smashed a lot of ITT specialists like Cancellara, Wiggins, Millar – besides Contador himself – on several occasions and in less rolling or longer TTs… he’s got more or less the same build as Contador (well, probably less *theoretically* fit for ITTs being less slender, and his way of pedalling is also less *theoretically* appropriate, too).

            Do you (or anyone else) find it weird/strange? ^__^
            [the right answer is “not so much, just as in Contador’s case”]

            Regarding the chaingate, that show what sort of an attitude prevented Andy Schleck from really ever winning a Tour. Why does exactly a rider need to wait for someone else who did a basic mistake? If he does, he’s very *caballeroso*, but if he doesn’t, he’s in his full right and in this case I wouldn’t even say he’s infringing fair play. It’s not like you’ve being brought down by other riders in a fall (assuming you were keeping the most appropriate position in the peloton) or you’ve had a flat or you snapped your chain… Media needed to feed the public with something noisy and emotive, but people racing bikes knew that Andy’s wasn’t the sort of sheer bad luck that a rival *might even* decide to compensate.

        • “Credit” time is over, it’s been all put down in black and white. Take your time and give a read to the several official reports on the subject.

          However, I didn’t say that Lance “controlled” the UCI. They simply were *best friends*, with friends of friends moving a whole lot of money for their friends. Verbrugge controlled the UCI, FWIW – it really makes little difference. What I wrote about antidoping policies has been long proven. And have a look to the Tour’s official sponsors, too.

          Perhaps the “pyramid” image and a couple of other metaphors gave a wrong impression about Lance being alone on the top… in fact, it was a group of power and “complicity” may just be a better word – that implies a degree of mutual control, indeed.
          “Conspiracy” is the exact term he’s been nailed for. If it was just doping, some statute of limitations would have applied.

          There’s no much place anymore to debate about Armstrong, nor there will be in ten or forty years. That moment expired some three years ago, now it’s just about informing oneself.

          Maybe you believe that “the same” will surface about Contador, but I strongly doubt he might ever be in such terms with McQuaid *and* Cookson, to start with – or with the USA and France Presidents, to the point of asking and obtaining the removal of the French NADO chief, you know. The kind of pretty details you can find out there reading the press. On, say, Le Monde, not on some conspiranoic forum.
          I really can’t see how people can still be so naif nowadays.

          Ah, and the technical points really don’t leave much room for debate, either. But I’ll concede that they’re harder to prove, it’s more about just watching the sport.

        • Great response, Gabriele and thanks for the info.
          As you say: now it’s just about informing oneself.
          The people who talk about ‘level playing fields’, etc. don’t know 20% of what went on.
          Unfortunately, the cycling media keeps publishing articles about him – usually ones where he says ‘I’m sorry I did whatever caused me to be caught’.
          Anyone with any sense knew he was cheating – although most didn’t know quite the extent of it – and they had to have some idea of a conspiracy as his rivals kept getting caught.
          Now, even with hindsight, some make excuses for him. Accept he won nothing genuinely and move on.

        • I think he said he might go on to support his team in case they decide to open up an elite section, but I doubt they’d get invited to the Tour, anyway ^__^ (who knows?)

    • Yes, and even if he won…
      It’s pretty clear that it would however be his very last shot. Winning in 2017 would mean becoming the oldest post-war winner, which is quite incompatible with his early start as a top-level competitor. Cancellara, who’s just one year older and who has raised to the top more or less at the same age as Contador, will apparently retire this year, too, although in the Classics the typical lifespan as a top contender is longer than in GTs.
      It would feel way better for Contador, and would be more according to his character, to retire at a high point – in terms of results, at least, since – obviously enough – the top of his performance curve has been reached and passed years ago, which means that he can still get somewhere near its top, but it’s becoming harder and harder, with less continuity and less predictability of the resulting performance.
      I believe he knows well enough that he’s playing against the odds. All the same, next year he would still have a few chances to win, given the right conditions, some luck, a couple of favourable situations or the likes. This year’s Tour provided doubts and confirmation in equal parts: look at the Tour top guns in the Vuelta, how worn out they were, and a decent performance in Giro-Tour is historically harder to achieve than in Tour-Vuelta.

      He’d be fine with a podium spot to end his career, keeping himself on the alert for if some space opened to give a shot to overall victory.
      After all, one could even argue that since Lance retired, out of ten Tours only three or four have been won by the strongest rider on the start line…

      • Interestingly, he seems to be talking of a Tour-Olympic double as his ambition for his final season. Not so many historical comparisons for that? Whereas Valverde seems to be planning to round his palmares by having a go at the races he’d never done, like Flanders and the Giro.

        • Indeed. The exclusion of the pros from the Olympics until Barcelona has produced some funny results, like Merckx jr. “winning” something his father couldn’t. Ullrich might have had an option in 2000, but he entered the Tour in a Betancuresque state (and Armstrong was… a step above). Sammy Sánchez… who knows? In a very hypothetical cleaner world, perhaps. However, a very long shot.
          The ITT medal hasn’t got the same value as the Road Race, IMHO (neither in the Olympics nor in the Worlds), but Wiggins’ was an impressive feat. Indurain might have set a precedent, back in 1996, if his career as a top GT rider had lasted just a bit more.

          I’m afraid that Valverde risks to find himself in the same situation as Bartoli, who spent his whole career without racing the Roubaix because of the danger, but also because everyone was saying he was “too light”, until in his last year as a pro he decided to go and try only to find out he liked it and wasn’t that bad, either. The same could happen to Valverde with Flanders… cobbled races are something you need to get acquainted with through time. A bit of a waste, IMHO, but… oook, he wanted so badly that Tour podium (something along these lines may be said for the Giro… if only he had tried it in 2007-2009 he’d probably have one in his palmarés).

          • Absolutely, Valverde would have had a solid chance against Menchov in 2009, possibly too against Di Luca in 2007. No way would he have beaten Contador in 2008.

          • I like your comparison of Valverde and Bartoli. Both are similar in the way they pedal(ed) IMHO. But Valverde seems to be even better in terms of smoothness on the bike whereas Bartoli was famous for his very flat back when he was riding all-out.
            I think Valverde should be good on the cobbles because of the extraordinary fluidity he has. He probably can make up for a certain lack of weight compared to the heavy hitters because he seems to tension up his whole body from the hands to the toes almost floating above the saddle when he’s going full speed ahead. From what his team mates tell he seems to do a lot of gym work, core stability training and stuff. It clearly shows.

          • @DMC
            Quite obviously, the one you’re saying that Valverde wouldn’t have any chance to win against Contador (…or “the beach guard”, as he was called then ^__^).

            In May 2008 Contador was far from irresistible, whereas Valverde had had a great spring and brought impressive form all the way into June. Plus, that Giro offered huge time bonuses, both for winning stages (20″!) and for intermediate sprints, and a lot of Classics-like stages.
            I can’t grant Valverde would have won 100%, but he might have had a very good chance, for sure. As stubborn as always, he went to the Tour which he entered in with great form… just to fade in some ten days time, when he cracked on the Tourmalet. Later that year, during the Vuelta, Contador could take him only 40″ on the Angliru (Valverde was 2nd) and they had the same exact time on the Navacerrada uphill ITT. Contador clearly had superior form, he had prepared the race and had rested more since the Giro (Aru vs. Quintana anyone?)… but more than half of the final difference in GC was due to Valverde’s troubles with the splits in a rainy day.

            Yeah, that Boonen-like suspension of the body which should help greatly on the cobbles (even if Boonen “flatter” or more “arch-like” position is just better, simply perfect for that – no wonder, he’s Boonen).

  16. This is the man who called Obama a “monkey” on twitter. It’s a disgrace he’s still part of our sport and it’s a disgrace that the cycling press didn’t absolutely nail him to the mast over this (as well as other sh*t he’s said over the past few years). Good riddance, we don’t need cavemen like this in the sport.

    • See I’ve never even heard his various bigotries – because I don’t follow the cretin on Twatter – which only goes to show that you’re right, the cycling press must have hardly mentioned this stuff at all.

    • Honestly, if you were Russian with a European perspective of world politics and your net worth was plummeting, it would be very hard not to think and say the most derogatory thoughts of the US president and his country.

      Additionally, I’m guessing that you’re American and I’m not condoning racist behavior, most of the rest of the world is not on the PC bandwagon. Just go watch a football match. Racism has crushed the careers of more than a couple of black players who had enormous potential.

      And Tinkov is just playing for attention for his Russian business. I believe he falls squarely in the “no press is bad press” camp.

      • All of which makes racism fine.
        It’s not a ‘PC bandwagon’: put plainly, it’s not being in favour of disliking or insulting someone based on their skin colour.
        Your reference to football has no relevance – if you were right, that wouldn’t make Tinkov’s behaviour any better.
        If Tinkov has a criticism to make of US politics, then that’s the criticism he should make – not bigoted name-calling. He could also take a good look at the actions of his own president and wonder if they have anything to do with his country’s parlous state.
        You say you’re not condoning racist behaviour, but that’s precisely what you did.

        • I am not condoning it, I made a brief attempt to explain it.

          I am guessing that you too are an American, because only an American would believe that Russia is in danger. Lavrov doesn’t travel to the US, Kerry travels to Russia and capitulates. I could go on but, let’s try to stay on topic…

          • The explanation for Tinkoff’s racist comments is that he is a racist. No other bullshit explanations about geopolitics or America or Russia’s position in the world or any other excuses needed or wanted. Just that’s he’s a racist asshole.

            I’m not American, not that it’s relevant in the slightest.

            Also, good to know that being against racist insults makes me part of the “PC bandwagon” (presumably a bad thing in your opinion).

            Stay classy.

          • I’m not American, not that it’s relevant in the slightest.
            Nowhere did I say ‘that Russia is in danger’. That only happened in your imagination.
            When I mentioned Russia’s ‘parlous state’, I meant its economy – I thought that was obvious because that was what you were talking about – ‘net worth’, etc.
            You were condoning Tinkov’s racism by saying ‘it would be very hard not to think and say the most derogatory thoughts of the US president and his country’ – that’s condoning it.
            Also, ‘most of the rest of the world is not on the PC bandwagon’ suggests that being against racism is just being on a ‘PC bandwagon’ – that’s condoning it.
            You don’t speak for the rest of the world.
            And you’re not staying on topic: you’re staying on Daily Mail Fantasy Island.

  17. Well, Oleg is going unfortunately, but his doings aside, I am going out on a limb and say that if you believe that your number ($860,000) towards a team budget is as you say “irrelevant”………well Sir, you have been bloging WAY too long and may in fact be out of touch with the sport that you claim to be an expert on.

    All World Tour and Continental teams that I have worked with since 2002 ( 5 in total) would have killed for that stack of cash.

    All the hours on Skype, the millions of e.mails and countless meetings, just to secure sponsor money, EVERY_SINGLE_SEASON and then the internet experts say that almost a million per year is peanuts….insulting actually.

    • It’s nice but it’s not transformative. Most importantly it’s based on the fantasy of ASO deciding to pay out half its profits to teams. In other words if we imagine a wild scenario where ASO suddenly turns into a charity to help pro teams then the money available is nice but doesn’t change the model, teams will still be reliant on naming rights and selling sponsorship based on the jersey.

    • 25% is a bit low, but not unrealistic for this business. Keep in mind BMC is small potatoes compared to many brands, they dont sell many bikes and don’t have the benefit of the economies of scale. .They ‘try’ to produce a few frames in Switzerland despite the fact that Swiss labor costs are among the highest in the world.

      Andy really is a sugar daddy and when he throws in the towel BMC is toast.

  18. The continuing talk about “an unsustainable business model” blows my mind!

    If you are a team owner in cycling and in control of the team’s finances it is your own responsibility to run that company in a responsible and sustainable manner , isn’t it? If you truly believe that the current model isn’t working, why are you not trying to be a head of the curve and set it up differently?

    Looking at Team Sky’s accounts, wages are ca 75% of their total expenses. Just bring it down. Don’t blow your entire budget every year. You might not win as much, but in the long term I believe your increased liquidity could let you outfox the other teams (businesses) and take advantage of situations when other teams blow up and “essets” are cheap.

    Compare the current situation to another sector: Let say you run a company where all your income comes from one client and you know that this contract is up in 2018. Would you blow your entire budget for 2016 and 2017 hoping something will eventually show up or would you start saving and building up some money to survive in hard times? If you chose the former and all your employees loses their job in 2018, it’s too simplistic to blame it all on a bad market.

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