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by Shane Stokes
March 25, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
Saxo Bank CEO Lars Seier Christensen has said he believes it is possible to resolve the current situation between Oleg Tinkov and Bjarne Riis, the owner and manager of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, and has offered to personally mediate between the two in order to find a solution.
Seier Christensen has had a long business relationship with Riis, being the main sponsor of his team for several years. Saxo Bank become a secondary sponsor when Tinkov took over as the main backer and then the owner, but the Danish company remains involved.
Seier Christensen said that he has received multiple requests in the past two days to comment on the situation after Riis was suspended by Tinkov. In a statement, he said that the decision is one that Saxo Bank was not a part of, and indeed that it was not notified in advance of what was happening.
“Of course, I respect Oleg Tinkov’s right as team owner to carry out the dealings he wishes, but I would also like to stress that Bjarne Riis’ able leadership is a major reason why Saxo Bank has been a sponsor of the team for eight seasons,” he stated.
Despite what is likely dissatisfaction with the situation, he said that Saxo Bank would meet its full obligations and support the team throughout 2015, as agreed.
He hopes that a solution can be found, and is willing to be part of that.
“I have personally spoken with the parties involved over the last few days, and there is, in my view, nothing to prevent the matter from being resolved amicably, if they really want this,” he said. “Sometimes disputes arise, both in sports and business, and all of the leading figures around the team are notoriously passionate people.
“But then you have to find a compromise and move forward again. It can also be done here. I offered the parties to mediate between them if it can get things to fall into place.”
He said that such a process would require Tinkov, Riis and the team management to all help to work towards a solution. “I urge you to first of all think of the team and the riders in this context,” he said.
“Tinkoff-Saxo is the world’s best team and it would be a shame to weaken it through internal dissension just before the season’s most important tasks.”
He said that he would visit the team at the Tour of Flanders next weekend, and that he hopes to be at the race “with both my partners and friends, Oleg and Bjarne.”
Meanwhile former Tinkoff-Saxo rider Anders Lund has said that he is not altogether surprised at the development, saying that Tinkov has issues as soon as things don’t go the way he wants.
It is known that a row broke out during Tirreno-Adriatico between Tinkov on one side and Bjarne Riis plus the riders on the other. A lack of results was a big issue.
“Before it can be seen from Twitter that he could criticize the team,” said Lund, speaking to Feltet.dk. “It is clear that he can throw more pressure on the riders when he is the boss.
“Tinkov is very jovial, but when things go badly he quickly whips a bad mood up. The problem is that he is a rich Russian and he can not understand why many millions does not provide many victories. That is an equation that he cannot understand.”
He said that things wouldn’t be as they are had Sagan had won Milan-San Remo or if Contador had not been distanced by Nairo Quintana in Tirreno-Adriatico. However, once the results are not as Tinkov expects, Lund says that problems arise.
Much as his financial support was needed to keep the team going, he believes the businessman’s volatility is a liability.
“There is not any doubt that Tinkov is a huge problem to have on a team,” Lund continues. “He delivers some money, but he also provides some unrest and a lot of noise for the riders, which is not beneficial.
“He’s not there for her pretty face. He is there because he can give a few million.”
As Seier Christensen states, the suspension is not an irreversible situation. He hopes that a solution can be found. For his part, Lund says it is difficult to see what the next step will be.