Blythe will race for new Irish Pro-Continental team Aqua Blue for two years from 2017, having joined from Tinkoff who are folding due to the owner pulling his sponsorship from the sport after 11 years. It is estimated that he has invested €50m since 2006.
Sporting somewhat of a marmite profile among cycling’s fraternity, Tinkov has been notoriously vocal during his presence and involvement in the sport; in recent years he has called the UCI “bureaucratic idiots” and also threatened to reduce Peter Sagan’s wages after his sub-standard early 2015 form.
He has also damned cycling’s current free-to-air television agreements, saying that it ought to be pay-for-view with the money reinvested into teams to create a more sustainable model.
“What he said was quite right: the TV rights that he believes in, it should be the way he wants it, but sadly it’s going to take more than one very rich cycling Russian team owner to make that happen,” Blythe, 27, told Cycling Weekly.
“I think Oleg will be missed. He is good for the sport and I think sports needs that – a little bit of personality on the sidelines, someone who can voice their opinion without being worried about the consequences.
“He’s going to be missed, for sure. He is great fun and has done a lot for the sport. Having teams for as long as he has has helped a lot of riders along the way.”
Blythe will be given more opportunities to race for victory at his new team, a chance seldom afforded to him during his stints in the WorldTour with Tinkoff, Orica-GreenEdge, BMC Racing and Omega Pharma-Lotto.
In 2016, he often formed part of Sagan’s support team and working with the two-time world champion has been a memorable experience for the Yorkshireman.
“Peter is a different animal,” he says. “You don’t have to do anything for him. You ask him if he wants help and he’ll just say ‘no, I’m fine, stay near me if you can’, but that’s the thing – not many people can! He doesn’t really need help, he’s just Peter.
“What you see on TV is what you get. The thing is with him is that he’s super-relaxed and super-cool about everything.
“If you talk about a hard stage, he doesn’t say ‘I’m Peter Sagan, it’s going to be easy for me’, he still looks at it on paper and says ‘fuck me it’s going to be hard’.
“He doesn’t think he’s so much better than anyone or he’s not vocal about how good he is, he’s just down to earth and a great guy.”