Even when you’re not in-depth familiar with the world of professional bicycle racing, you’ve probably came across Oleg Tinkov. He had previously made headlines not only with his impolite comments about Sagan and Contador, including a complaint that he paid Sagan too much, but also with criticizing rival team managers and making a racial tweet about president Obama in 2015. Some even liken the Russian to the president-elect Donald Trump thanks to his loud, “big-wallet” mentality.
In his final interview as a Tinkoff Team owner in October 2016 he recalled memories of the five years spent as the team’s manager and, apart from criticizing the sport’s overall management and talking about the joy of spending 50 million Euros to fund his team, he made a few jabs at his relationship with Contador.
— Oleg Tinkov (@olegtinkov) July 30, 2015
After he explained that his relationship with Sagan was only misunderstood by media and that they managed to sort out every issue, he started to go into more detail regarding his opinions on Contador. Speaking his mind as usual, he ended up making allegations such as: “I respect him as a rider for his past but as a person he’s never really appealed to me. I don’t like him. Even in the team, most of the riders don’t like him. He ended up having a bad relation with almost everyone, apart from his little Spanish group.” He even went as far as to suggest that he should warn Luca Guercilena, Trek –Segafredo’s team manager and Contador’s new employer, that the Spaniard will wreak “a mess” in his team.
Further in the interview he continues to make suggestion for the cyclist: “He’s a great champion and so should stop now. I think he’s going to be like a limping duck. He’s going to look stupid. […] I don’t think he’s ever going to win another Grand Tour. He should forget about it and quit.” He continues by accusing him that he wasn’t a keen enough participant in some of the races and when Contador claimed he couldn’t ride Il Lombardia because of an illness Tinkoff suggested that “for the money he earns, that shouldn’t happen” and went as far as dropping and S-bomb to call him out on his excuses.
It was probably the last part of Tinkov’s rant that prompted the Spaniard’s response. When Tinkov held a farewell party for the team he didn’t invite Contador. His explanation was plain and simple: “I think the party will be better without him anyway because he’s a sad person. He never really wants to drink champagne and is always careful about what he eats because he’s focused on winning the Tour de France in July. […] That’s a stupid attitude, that’s why he kept crashing, he’s too hard on himself and too focused. […] The guys who are always serious are always boring. They can f*ck off. They’re boring guys, they have a terrible life.” Quite the well-articulated and sophisticated response.
According to Contador, their disagreements started when the team’s first manager, Bjarne Riis, left the team over alleged mutual agreement. In his own words: “I knew that everything would change with his departure. He was a team leader who could manage a group of 70 people. You can go in with a lot of money but you must have a number of capabilities to manage. Bjarne Riis had them and Tinkov didn’t.” On the other hand, Contador doesn’t appear to have any regrets over leaving the Tinkoff Team and stated that: “He [Tinkov] has been part of my career, which fortunately is finished,” Contador told Spanish radio Cadena SER.
No matter what you think of Contador, he managed to either keep polite silence or respond in a diplomatic and respectful way to Tinkov’s rude remarks. Only recently, after joining the Trek-Segafredo, he let us in on his thoughts: “If those statements came from a person that you had affection for, then you’d care. In my case, it does not affect me at all,” Contador added in the radio interview.
“I was taught a set of values, among them respect, you should always have respect for people.
“There are people who perhaps do not think that way, that’s the way I see it. I’ll drink Champagne with friends, not with him [Tinkov].”
— Alberto Contador (@albertocontador) December 31, 2016
Shortly after the start of 2017, Contador posted a video on social media of him ripping of his shirt to reveal his new Trek-Segafredo kit for the first time, and toasted his new team with a glass of bubbles. In the Cadena Ser interview he swore it wasn’t a dig intended for his former manager, and joked that in any case it was cava – not champagne.