Oleg Tinkov, the Russian entrepreneur who is closing down the WorldTour team he bankrolls at the end of this season, has said that others could depart a sport he sees as suffering "a huge crisis," naming BMC Racing and Katusha as among other top flight squads at risk.
Speaking to Denmark’s TV2, Tinkov said: “I haven’t tried to sell the team, what does selling mean in cycling? Teams are collapsing, like mine, and I am sure that soon there will be more than a collapse.
“The business model in cycling is wrong. I am sure that BMC and Katusha will close the shutters soon,” said Tinkov, noting that besides his own team, Switzerland-based IAM Cycling has already been confirmed as leaving the peloton at the end of the year.
“Cycling is in the midst of a huge crisis, but if ASO does not agree to share TV rights with teams as happens in Formula 1, it will never change,” he added.
Tinkov decided to pull the plug on his team, which he bought from Bjarne Riis for €6 million in 2013, due to what he saw as lack of support from inside the sport for reforms he suggested that he believes would make it more sustainable.
While Europe’s richest football clubs become ever more wealthier as a result of their share of lucrative TV rights, in cycling those are owned by race organisers, with Tour de France owners ASO in a dominant position, followed by the Italian business, RCS, which owns the Giro d'Italia.
Between them, the two businesses also own some of cycling's biggest stage races such as Tirenno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice, as well as four of the five one-day Monuments, the exception being the Tour of Flanders.
The billionaire, who made his money through the financial services firm that bears his name, expanded on his thoughts yesterday in text accompanying a picture he posted to Instagram of himself next to his private jet.
“Let me be more accurate,” he explained. “I believe not only BMC and Katusha, but also Orica, Dimension Data and perhaps Lampre are in the risk if cycling financial model won't be changed.
“We'll ending up with 2 layers – Goverment budget teams such as Astana, FDJ, Lotto's and bike producer's team from the other side.
“There are exceptions such as Movistar or Etixx, but for how long their talented managers will [be] convincing rich sponsors to support? I don't know.”
The solution he puts forward to the “crisis” he sees engulfing the sport lies in revenue sharing between organisers of major races and the leading teams, backed by outside investors.
Tinkoff is a member of Velon, the joint venture created by 11 WorldTour teams in 2014 to provide additional income streams for them as well as giving greater stability to the sport.
“I see the only model that works,” said Tinkov.
“ASO and some hedge-fund create new vehicle – This structure buys RCS and create TOP professional league of 12/14 teams, dropping off impotent UCI.
“ASO signs strong contract with pay-per-view TV Co. and covers only top and monument races.
“ASO pays €€€ to the top chosen teams on annual basis – Salary cap for the team is a must!
“Peloton in that league should be reduced to 150 riders Max, 14 teams (12+2 wild cards) X9.
“UCI should take care of juniors and small teams and races to develop riders for elite business project.”
He concluded: “Here is my idea, that's pretty obvious, I don't pretend on the rocket science!”
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.