Oleg Tinkov will sever his ties with cycling at the end of the season, with the Russian admitting defeat in his attempts to reform the sport – and has warned that teams and sponsors will be left “in the shit” unless it changes.
Earlier this year, the Russian entrepreneur outlined how he believed cycling needed to change if the sport, and those operating within it, were to have a sustainable future.
But he says his call to action fell on deaf ears, leading him to decide to walk away from the sport with a parting shot of, “F*ck all of them.”
Speaking to Stephen Farrand of Cycling News, he said: “There are two main reasons for my decision and I hope people will understand them and then reflect on why professional cycling has lost a guy who has spent over €60 million and who loves the sport.
“First of all, Tinkoff Bank has sponsored the team for five years and from a marketing point of view that’s enough.
“We’re not a global bank, the economical situation in Russia is not great and my marketing people tell me that we’ve reached all the investors we can via cycling and sports sponsorship.
“We’ve decided we have to switch our advertising budget to direct TV advertising in 2017.
“That’s the logical, business side of my decision,” he went on.
“The other half is more complex and a lot more personal and is why I refuse to use any of my personal wealth going forward.”
““I’ve decided to sell the team and quit the sport because I’ve realised nobody wants to work with me to help change the business model of the sport.
“ In the last two or three years I’ve tried to fight with ASO and the UCI, I’ve tried to find new revenue streams via TV rights, merchandise sales and tickets sales but nobody really supported me and wanted to take a strong stand with me.”
Likening himself to Don Quixote tilting at windmills, Tinkov lamented the lack of support for his ideas, saying [Team Sky Principal] Dave Brailsford is the only one who tried to support me.”
He went on: “Everyone should understand that nobody can fight ASO or push for changes on their own. We should back each other and then ASO wouldn’t dare kick out one team because we would all boycott the Tour de France.
“But if nobody else cares about the future of the sport, then why should I care? F*ck all of them!
”That’s my personal reason why I want to leave professional cycling. From January 2017, I’m gone.
“I’m out of cycling. I’ll jump on my jet, fly home and focus on my business interests and enjoying my life.
“Everyone who is left in cycling will be the ones who will be in the shit. They will have to try to survive year by year, trying to convince sponsors to back a sport that isn’t sustainable.”
Tinkoff also said that reforms proposed by the UCI were not sweeping enough – he wants five-year, not three year licences, and a transfer system similar to football, “so that I could perhaps now sell Peter Sagan and make money.”
He added: “Sadly nobody has a strategic view or a real business plan for professional cycling. Everyone follows a 12-month view.
“But I’m a businessman and work with a 60-month view or even 90 month-view. Nobody can plan, and work with just a 12-month strategy. You won’t achieve anything.”
Tinkov’s departure could herald the return of Bjarne Riis, who sold it to the Russian in 2014 but is known to be eager to return to the sport.
Meanwhile, the team’s management are seeking new sponsorship for the 2017 season and beyond.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.