"Alberto Contador is a superstar, the best racer in the world, and I can't even remember the names of whoever Argos-Shimano have in their squad," Tinkov said alongside the Spaniard in a press conference in Moscow.
The serial entrepreneur — whose ventures range from financial services to the ravioli industry and internet business incubating — added: "It's absolutely, obviously, a crazy situation. Personally, it's difficult for me to imagine a situation where we don't receive a licence."
With Argos's star sprinters John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel last year picking up more UCI points than the whole of Bjarne Riis's Saxo squad combined, Tinkov's words clearly struck a nerve with their rivals, who are renowned for their strong anti-doping stance.
German youngster Kittel tweeted his response, following it with emoticon text lingo for 'hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil': "Olé Oleg! Nice interview. You're right: why should cycling need credibility and rules?!"
Simon Geschke further fanned the flames with his succinct riposte: "Well, I don't know Oleg Tinkoff either, seems to be no superstar..."
On reading the Cyclingnews report of the fallout (entitled 'Geschke, Kittel unimpressed by Tinkov's comments over ProTeam licence'), Tinkov then took to Twitter himself to further incur the wrath of his detractors.
"I remember Kittel for now, but who is Geshke?" wrote Tinkov, before answering his own question with an apparent attempt at humour: "Brother of Jachse)))?". (Oleg has clearly noted the fact that both Geschke and [former rider and convicted doper Jorg] Jaksche both share surnames that contain a bevy of similar letters — although he missed a trick by failing to spell both men's names correctly).
"This is absurd even to compare us," Tinkov concluded, before baking a cake adorned with a huge pistol in anticipation of Alberto Contador's 30th birthday.
Later on, the Siberian miner's son, who claims his biggest success story is having "a smart and sexy wife and three beautiful kids", laid into one Twitter troll with a delicious slap-down: "I and members of the team have a different opinion on it so shut up your mouth yourself."
Anyway, this whole altercation had Saddles (and many of the cycling community) in stitches. Should Tinkov — a man who has openly condoned doping in the past and a man who still claims that doping in cycling is "exaggerated" — get his comeuppance when the UCI names the remaining WorldTour places, then the Argos boys could have a field day.
For starters, Argos should definitely make a run of limited edition T-shirts emblazoned with the cryptic catchphrases "Who is Geschke" and "Brother of Jaksche".
Talking of T-shirts, Saddles can't wait for the day Kittel becomes World Champion. Why? He has already patented the trademark "Kittel: Taste the Rainbow".
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In other news this week, German pin-up Linus Gerdemann admitted he was "surprised" not to be offered a new contract with RadioShack for the coming season.
"Now I will have to check out my options, although it is pretty late," the 30-year-old said. "In this short timespan I haven't found a team that I can identify with. If the program is right and the philosophy of the team suits me, I don't care if I help others win races or look for my own chances."
Saddles has a suggestion — one which will certainly help Gerdemann find a team he could identify with. During the off-season, Linus should embark on an aggressive programme of corticosteroids — so advanced in fact that he develops acute diabetes.
Then — hey presto — Gerdemann will have the perfect reason to join the ranks of Novo Nordisk, the reincarnation of Pro Conti Team Type 1-Sanofi, which from now on will boast a squad composed solely of diabetic riders (a first for cycling).
While doping on the sly in a bid to find the right team may seem like swimming upstream against the current vague of zero tolerance — a wholesale perversion of the aims of the newly-founded Change Cycling Now group, if you will — it at least shows some logic. Presuming you take Alejandro Valverde's word for it...
For the Spaniard this week declared that his 18-month suspension for blood doping under the supervision of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes "will extend my career". Valverde now believes he can "keep going until I'm 37 or 38" after a promising comeback season in which "I was able to win from January until the Worlds, where I went like a motorbike".
So, Linus: speak to some famous triathlete who has recently fallen from grace; get the lowdown on those steroids; serve your time at Novo Nordisk — then you too will be powering to a Vuelta podium some time in the no so distant future.
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Meanwhile, Team Sky are still looking for a new directeur sportif for the 2013 season after sacking their entire back-room staff over their zero tolerance programme. Good luck with that one. Saddles would suggest himself — but then again, he doesn't want that night out in Bonn with Jan Ullrich to surface any time fast.
And finally, after extensive tests European pharmacological researchers declared this week that there is "no scientific evidence" that using EPO enhances a rider's performance. Of course, there is also "no scientific evidence" that Oleg Tinkov is a complete plonker, so we'll just let that one lie, shall we?
- Sports & Recreation
- Simon Geschke
- Marcel Kittel
- Alberto Contador