Almost two years after he sold his team to Oleg Tinkov and seven months after he left it after a falling out with the Russian, Bjarne Riis is reportedly trying to buy the squad back.
According to Danish publication Ekstra Bladet, what it terms ‘well-placed sources’ have told it that Riis’s bid to return to the sport of cycling has seen him negotiate with Tinkov.
The latter took over the squad in December 2013, paying Riis an estimated six million Euro. The Dane was retained as manager at a salary of approximately one million Euro.
He had been forced to sell the team after repeated difficulties finding sufficient sponsorship.
Ekstra Bladet contacted Tinkov’s right-hand man and current team general manager Stefano Feltrin who, it says, didn’t deny the story.
“As far as I am aware, no binding offer has been received to date,” Feltrin said.
Were Tinkov to sell the team back to Riis, it would be a move that few – if any – would have anticipated. After a reported falling out at Tirreno-Adriatico, the Russian suspended Riis, then later ended his employment.
At the time the team said that its management company and Riis had ‘reached a mutual agreement to terminate all contracts with immediate effect.’
Despite a confidentiality agreement, Tinkov made several pointed comments about Riis on social media and in interviews.
Since then he has seen the team have varying success; Alberto Contador won the Giro d’Italia but then was below par in the Tour de France, finishing fifth. Peter Sagan was unable to succeed in Tinkov’s goal of taking ‘one or two’ Classics, leading to the Russian saying that he would cut his salary if he could, but last month won the world road race championships.
It remains to be seen if Tinkov will consider selling. His bank has been performing poorly.
However even if Riis does regain control, he will be faced with the same headache as before: the need to have a sufficient budget to cover all of the big name riders on the team.
Were the deal to fall through, it is possible that Riis could reappear in cycling anyway. Ekstra Bladet states that he has also tried to buy another as-yet unnamed team, and that he was also speaking to riders at the world road race championship about riding for him next season.
It has said that it will publish more details on Thursday.