Cycling media has erupted after the news has broken that Oleg Tinkov has suspended Tinkoff-Saxo Directeur Sportif Bjarne Riis. Riis, the former owner of the team had owned it for 13 years before Tinkov took over. The news was broken by Danish media outlet BT, in this Monday article.
In 2000, team Jack and Jones-Memory Card lost its sponsorship, and the team fell into the hands of 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis. It was a rather small outfit, but Riis soon set about making it the biggest, or one of the biggest, in the world. Dodginess aside, he hired some of the best riders, such as Laurent Jalabert and Tyler Hamilton, who won big races in the following years. Hamilton then left, but victories were still garnered for the team by Ivan Basso, a signing for 2004, and then the biggest win of them all. In a Riis tactical masterclass, Carlos Sastre attacked on L'Alpe d'Huez and gained enough time to win the 2008 Tour de France. Classics were also won, winning Liége, San Remo and Roubaix. A very successful team.
This continued even when CSC left, with the Schleck brothers taking Liege and Tour podium finishes, with another Tour win in 2010. When the Schlecks left, new signing Contador won the Giro, before it was retroactively stripped of him. On returning from his ban, he won the 2012 Vuelta, before being humiliated at the 2013 Tour, as changes were afoot.
Before the 2012 Tour, Russian multimillionaire Oleg Tinkov began to sponsor the then Team Saxo Bank, becoming Team Saxo-Tinkoff. This held true until late 2013, when Tinkoff looked to leave the team, before having a change of heart, and buying it from Riis. Riis, they agreed, would stay on as manager for a further 3 seasons. Tinkov was originally happy with his team, but began to grow restless, as Contador crashed out of the Tour, and few results were coming from anywhere else but him, Majka and Rogers. By the end of the season, Oleg wanted a new angle. So. He bought Peter Sagan. Sagan, despite showing speed and climbing skill, had not had a great deal of results in 2014, but took the green jersey with ease. Tinkov hoped he would grow in 2015.
The 2015 season started reasonably well for the team, Contador taking stage 3 of the Ruta del Sol boded well for the team, but he was thoroughly beaten the next day. Sagan meanwhile, had been incredibly consistent in Qatar, but had no wins. He first raised his arms on stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico. However, Tinkov still wasn't happy. Riis was scheduled to be DSing at MSR, but he was not there. The team's CEO, Stefano Feltrin, waved it away, but apparently sent emails saying he was suspended "due to unsatisfactory results."
So. What does this mean? Well, for the last 15 years, this has been Riis' team. It now becomes Tinkov's. Some have even put forward the theory that Riis has been sacked because of the forthcoming "Anti Doping Denmark" enquiry.
It even seems fans are turning away from the team due to this development. If you search one of "Tinkov," "Tinkoff," "Bjarne," or "Riis" on twitter, you will find hundreds of fans saying that it is no longer the same team, and they will no longer support it.
There is, officially, more news. Everyone suscribed to the Tinkoff-Saxo emailing service today, just after the finish of Gent-Wevelgem, received this email.
The email reads that they have reached a "mutual agreement to terminate all contracts." It will "announce the new structure of its technical and performance group" next week.
So where will Riis go now? Who will want him? He has admitted doping to win the Tour de France, which makes him damaged goods in some's eyes.