Oleg Tinkov and Bjarne Riis in war of words over the way Tinkoff team was run

As the Tinkoff team comes to an end, Bjarne Riis and Oleg Tinkov continue to disagree over the way the squad was run

Oleg Tinkov and Bjarne Riis at Tinkoff-Saxo Bank Cycling Team 2014
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Oleg Tinkov and the former owner of the Tinkoff team, Bjarne Riis, have been involved in a public spat over the running of the squad and its subsequent demise at the end of the 2016 season.

Dane Riis sold the team to Tinkov in December 2013, originally staying on as general manager before the leaving the squad by 'mutual agreement' in March 2015 after the two allegedly had an argument at the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race.

Tinkov took over running the team, but folded the squad this winter. Tinkoff's star riders Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan have signed with new teams for 2017.

Last week, Riis announced he was taking over the continental men's and women's Virtu teams for 2017. In Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, he openly criticised Russian businessman Tinkov over the two's break-up last year.

"I enjoyed the respect of the riders and the other employees," Riis said. "Respect is something you have to deserve. It is not something you buy.

"The sad part is that everything I built up over a period of 15 years was broken down in such a short time. Oleg's biggest mistake was to remove the philosophy I'd instilled in the team. I don't think he'd thought through what it meant to change the team that way."

Watch: Secrets of the Toolbox - Tinkoff

Responding to Riis's comments, Tinkov said that if he had his way, Bjarne Riis, and cycling team managers Johan Bruyneel and Jonathan Vaughters would be barred from cycling for life.

"People like Riis, Bruyneel and Vaughters must be banned out of cycling for life," Tinkov told Cyclingnews.

"They not only highly promoted doping, but also materially benefit from it. I see this as a crime, actually. Pity that such people are getting back into my sport."

He continued: "Riis must know that once ownership has changed, the new owner can do whatever with his property. I bought the toy, played with it, and did it in my way, so it is weird to hear these complaints."

Oleg Tinkov (right) with Alberto Contador

Oleg Tinkov (right) with Alberto Contador

Vaughters, the long time manager of team Cannondale/Slipstream, confessed to doping when he raced. His testimony in the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) case helped bring down Lance Armstrong, who lost his Tour titles and is serving a life-time ban.

Armstrong's and former USPS/Discovery Channel manager, Belgian Johan Bruyneel received a life-time ban in the USADA case, as well. He is currently trying to have that ban over-turned.

>>> Oleg Tinkov: ‘I trust Brailsford and Wiggins’

Former Tour de France winner, Dane Bjarne Riis admitted to doping in 2007. He kept running his CSC/Saxo Bank team before selling it to Tinkov. A 2015 Danish Anti-Doping Agency report found that he knew or encouraged his grand tour stars to dope through their careers, but due to the statute of limitations, he can continue in sport.

In Tinkov's short run in cycling, he complained about rival managers and his own cyclists. He said that he paid Sagan too much money and last month, he said that Contador is a "sad person" and that he and "most of the riders" in the team did not like him.

Earlier this year via his Twitter account, he suggested Vaughters was losing his Cannondale sponsor. Last summer, he made a racial comment about US President Barack Obama.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.