It's official: Russian beer mogul Oleg Tinkoff has purchased Bjarne Riis' World Tour license, rider contracts, truing stands and whatever else constitutes a cycling team, as Saxo-Tinkoff becomes Tinkoff-Saxo Bank starting later next year. This completes the dream marriage of a loose cannon billionaire and a paranoid right-wing bank, with Riis as the voice of reason in between rounds of golf.
As reactions go, I appreciate Riis' response that he's been waiting a long time for this, and sees it as vindication that he built something of value. He did. As for the "waiting" bit, I can't tell if that's the money or the relief in knowing that his calendar just got a lot lighter. All the details of running a cycling team, which I imagine to be considerable, have gone from Riis' shoulders to Tinkoff's, or rather whoever Tinkoff pays to take care of his details. When the Layopard project happened, there were murmurs that Bjarne was more interested in playing golf than running the show. I don't think that speaks so much to a disdain for cycling as a burnout from the details. Who knows. Maybe he's just another one to fall victim to the curious allure of golfing all the time.
Tinkoff's reaction was a little more ominous: "Finally I have my WorldTour team." Um, it's not a toy to add to your collection. It's a bunch of people's livelihoods. OK, he seems to really love cycling; anyone who suffered enough to race at all (as young Tinkoff did) has surely exposed himself to the sport's greatness, if only just a little. But billionaire sports owners very, very often confuse what people care about (the team) with what they care about (themselves). "Je suis l'etat" goes the refrain. Somehow, it is almost impossible for guys of this $tature to believe they aren't the real story. Sorry Oleg, but we fans really don't give a shit about you, just your money. If you can live with dropping off your cash and watching the professionals turn it into a great team, then you'll have our gratitude. If you want to be the story, then let me get a bit of a head start in saying fuck you.
Fingers crossed. Please post any other reactions -- your own, or what crops up in the medierz -- provided there's something more interesting than Contador's "I'm good".