Support for Team Sky was issued from an unexpected quarter yesterday: Oleg Tinkov, owner of rival squad Tinkoff-Saxo. Tinkov has come out in support of Sky after negative comments made on social media about the team’s performance and approach at the Giro d’Italia.
Russian multi-millionaire businessman Tinkov praised Sky’s approach into refining the way that teams tackle racing, saying on his Facebook page: “They really try to CHANGE CYCLING. And I respect them for doing this”.
British WorldTour team Sky went into the 2015 Giro with one of the leading favourites for the race, Richie Porte. However, Porte suffered a series of misfortunes that saw his hopes of wearing the pink leader’s jersey evaporate, and he withdrew from the race during Monday’s second rest day.
On stage 10, Porte suffered a badly-timed puncture and accepted a wheel from Simon Clarke of rival team Orica-GreenEdge, attracting a fine and time penalty. Then Porte was caught in a crash on stage 13, sustaining injuries that meant he also lost more time in the following day’s crucial time trial.
Porte had been staying in a motorhome during the Giro, away from the rest of the team in a hotel. The controversial move had attracted a large amount of attention, and some ridicule – including from other teams. Tinkov, however, saluted Sky and its manager Dave Brailsford for continuing to push the boundaries.
“With all of the jokes and polemics about Richie Porte’s motorhome, and Team Sky initiatives, I would have to admit that they are the ones who try. In contrast to old European schools [teams], who just laugh at them.”
“Dave Brailsford is consistently looking for the right people and new methods, and this is a huge breakthrough for our sport,” said Tinkov. “Maybe this RV idea won’t work, but you never know before you test.”
Tinkov then posted a link to a YouTube clip from the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring Jack Nicholson. The famous scene is one where Nicholson attempts to shift an immovable object several times before giving up and saying “I tried didn’t I, god damn it. At least I did that.”
It’s not the first time that Tinkov has expressed his admiration for Sky both verbally and otherwise: he has signed up former Sky staff members Bobby Julich, Steven de Jongh and Sean Yates.
Tinkov is also not afraid to make radical changes if he think his team is not working to its full potential. In March, the team parted ways with former owner and manager Bjarne Riis, and Tinkov has said that he thinks he should be able to reduce riders’ pay if they do not perform as expected.
Tinkoff-Saxo rider Alberto Contador is currently leading the Giro d’Italia as the race leads into its third and final week. The Spaniard’s closest challenger is Italian Fabio Aru (Astana), who sits two minutes and 35 seconds behind Contador.
With Porte now out of the race, leadership duties at Team Sky have switched to Czech rider Leopold König, who is placed fifth overall at six minutes and 36 seconds.