Russian billionaire said to have put €20 million a year on table - but he says Spanish press report is "bullshit"...

Oleg Tinkov reportedly approached Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford to discuss sponsoring the UCI WorldTour outfit after broadcaster Sky’s backing of it finishes at the end of this season – although the Russian billionaire is said to have dismissed the claim as “bullshit.”

According to Spanish sports daily AS, Tinkov phoned Brailsford shortly after news broke in December that Sky was ending its sponsorship, with the Team Sky principal saying he hoped to find a new backer to enable the team to continue in 2020 and beyond.

AS cited sources who told it that the Russian entrepreneur, who made his $2 billion-plus fortune in financial services, proposed an annual budget of €20 million – a big drop from Team Sky’s current budget of more than €30 million which makes it the richest team in the sport – but with certain conditions attached, given that he would be financing the project.

Brailsford is reported to have thanked Tinkov before rejecting the offer, according to the same sources, with AS reporting that he did so due to “an irreconcilable incompatibility on management and vision regarding business and sport.”

Tinkov, for his part, is reported by Cycling News to have described the AS report as “bullshit.”

A colourful and highly opinionated figure, he left the sport in 2016, two years after buying the licence of the former Saxo-Tinkoff team from Bjarne Riis, which his business had co-sponsored since 2012.

Previously, he sponsored the Italy-registered UCI Professional Continental team, Tinkoff Credit Systems, in 2007 and 2008.

As for potential future sponsors of the British UCI WorldTour outfit, AS suggests that a new backer may emerge from China, pointing out that former Team Sky coach and British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton is now in charge of the Chinese national team – and has reportedly enquired in Spain about the availability of industrial units in Girona, where many English-speaking professionals are based, as well as team buses.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.