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Oleg Tinkov’s 1 million euro challenge to have cycling’s top four grand tour contenders race in the three grand tours of 2015 has died before it even began. The Russian businessman and owner of Tinkoff-Saxo admitted he will have to scale down his hopes or pursue the stars to do it another year.
“The sooner it happens the better it is. For the next year it may be hard,” Tinkov told Sky Sports Thursday.
“I think it would be a huge victory if next year all four of them would start the Giro and Tour double. 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.”
Tinkov’s wish of even having all four in the Giro d’Italia May (9-31) and Tour de France (July 4-26) will likely not come true as the cyclists have planned to race elsewhere.
Quintana (Movistar), who won the 2014 Giro, announced Thursday he firmed up his 2015 racing schedule to be centered on the Tour and the Vuelta a España (August 22-September 13).
“In reality, there is very little chance of all four of us being present,” Quintana said at press conference. “For my part there would be no problem. I could do it, though.”
2014 Tour champion Nibali (Astana) and 2013 champion Froome (Sky) are reportedly aiming for the Tour de France and are going to leave the Giro to their teammates. Nibali already said that Fabio Aru deserves his space to race the 2015 Giro as Astana’s leader after showing his capabilities this season.
Contador, Tinkov’s rider, appears to be the only one of the four willing to ride the Giro/Tour double and to go for a possible third grand tour at the Vuelta.
Tinkov initially proposed to give 1 million euros, or $1.3 million, to the four cyclists if they raced the Giro, Tour, and Vuelta in 2015. He said they could allow the winner to take it all or divide the money four ways.
The money appears not sufficient enough, as the top stars want to focus on being in form to win one of cycling’s prestigious stage races and to make way for their teams’ other riders.
“It’s hard but they are getting a lot of money, those guys,” Tinkov said of his challenge. “They get a big paycheck. They are paid almost like good football players. They have a good salary and they have to work for that salary.”
Quintana’s 2015 schedule also includes the Tour de San Luis, Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), the Tour de Suisse, and the Vuelta a Burgos. Even without the three-week Giro, he will be racing all season.
Critics of Tinkov’s idea have pointed out that racing hard in all three grand tours would exclude the stars, both physically and mentally, from racing in the smaller events.
“It’s not a question of money, but programming, goals, and a lifestyle choice. Already to prepare for a big race like the Tour requires a lot of self-sacrifice and a lot of work,” Nibali told Italian website Tutto Bici.
“Cyclists are away from home often. We neglect our family to go race or to train for long periods at camps. Fitting in three grand tours would not be humane.”
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