• Oleg Tinkov (R) prior to a team training session during a rest day of the 2015 Tour de France (Getty)
Oleg Tinkov’s decision to abandon sponsorship of professional road cycling should come as no surprise to anyone.
By
Source:
Cycling Central
13 Dec 2015 - 9:05 AM  UPDATED 13 Dec 2015 - 9:07 AM

Tinkov today confirmed in an interview with Cyclingnews that he will throw all of his toys out of the cot at the end of 2016 and pull financial support of the WorldTour squad, Tinkoff.

“I’ve decided to sell the team and quit the sport because I’ve realised nobody wants to work with me to help change the business model of the sport,” he said.

“In the last two or three years I’ve tried to fight with ASO and the UCI, I’ve tried to find new revenue streams via TV rights, merchandise sales and tickets sales but nobody really supported me and wanted to take a strong stand with me.”

None of this is surprising in any way. If we know one thing about road cycling is that it is remarkably resistant to change of any kind, and Tinkov’s decision to pull the pin at the end of 2016 demonstrates that fully.

Love him or hate him he is a man of big ambition in a sport where only small thinking and incremental change will keep you in the game over the long haul.

Tinkov only had to ask the men who run the French teams on their survival techniques, someone like Vincent Lavenu of AG2R.

But unlike Lavenu, patience and restraint are not a part of his repertoire - having so much money to splash around probably does that to a man.

He is an entrepreneurial and emotional individual used to getting things done, and usually it has to be done his way, but cycling often has other ideas. Most of them 19th Century.

For example, the implementation of disc brakes in the peloton is everything that’s wrong with professional road cycling in microcosm.

While Tinkov tilted at big windmills, the International Cycling Union (UCI) offered up a small change that didn’t require anything more than a note on a technical specifications sheet. Instead there was public and vocal resistance from many within who didn’t understand it as a signal of advancement.

Now imagine trying to force a whole new financial and organisational structure, as Tinkov did, on a sport stuck with a legacy from the last century? It was never going to happen. For someone so smart he was pretty dumb in thinking he could make it happen.

I’m not a fan of his P.T. Barnum approach to cycling, but largely Tinkov is right in his assessment of professional road cycling. It needs to change dramatically for its own survival. The center cannot hold.

The UCI recently announced some tinkering to the system but it was in reality incremental steps forward and unlikely to do anything but push effective change off into the distant future.

“This reform respects existing rights, ensures stability for organisers and teams and encourages stakeholders to work together, ultimately reinforcing the credibility and integrity of cycling, UCI President Brian Cookson said.

“We all need to feel responsible for the image of our sport. All of us need to realise that it is only by making our sport more sustainable, that we will create new opportunities for all.

“I am pleased with the level of collaboration that has been demonstrated over the past two years and I am now looking forward to the implementation of these changes in the same spirit.”

It was a managerial statement by Cookson which not only hid failure but also recognised the difficult nature of forcing change.

Go softly or go home. So Tinkov is going home. It was fun while it lasted but he’s just another casualty of cycling’s hidebound culture.

For every one of him there is a Lavenu quietly working away over the long haul or another sponsor waiting to take his place.

So where to from here? No place really. The sport will go on in its own unique way. Tinkov goes and someone will replace him, that’s how it has always been.