Oleg Tinkov and Bjarne Riis with a change of mood at the team bus that was in clear contrast to the solemn air surrounding the team after Contador withdrew. A jovial Riis said after Majka's win, “I think he is a happy little b**ard right now,” he laughed. “He is fantastic. That was a big number today, a really great victory. He has been sitting out there the whole day, pulling in the wind and everything, and still able to have 35 seconds at the bottom and keep it until the finish…that is something big.”

Tinkov accepts Grand Tour challenge probably won’t occur next season

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Tinkoff Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov has accepted that the Grand Tour challenge he has been pushing for is unlikely to take place in 2015, but has said that he remains committed to the idea and hopes that the sport’s top riders will commit to it for the following season.

The Russian had said that his bank will put up the sum of one million euro as encouragement for his team leader Alberto Contador, Chris Froome (Sky), 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and 2013 Tour runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to pledge to ride the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.

That money would either be split four ways, or could alternatively be given to the rider with the best combined result from the three races.

However Nibali said recently that he felt the idea was not humanly possible; as for Quintana, he has said that he will concentrate on the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in 2015.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Tinkov accepted that the plan was unlikely to go ahead next season. However he said that he hoped the top riders would instead commit to joining Contador in targeting the Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double.

“For me, the sooner it happens the better it is. For the next year it may be hard,” he told Sky on Thursday. “I think it would be a huge victory if all four of them would start the Giro and Tour double. That’s what Alberto Contador has already confirmed, so why don’t Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali join him? That would be good. Let’s start with the double this year and see how it evolves.”

Marco Pantani is the last rider to have achieved that double, doing so in 1998. All those who have attempted it since then have been unsuccessful. Pantani is widely accepted to have used banned substances, and was forced to withdraw from the 1999 Giro d’Italia with two stages remaining as his haematocrit was above the permitted 50% threshold.

This is generally interpreted as being indicative of blood doping.

Some have questioned if riders can recover in time to take two consecutive Grand Tours since the introduction of the biological passport. Winning three in one year has never been achieved in the sport.

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