Having decided to stop sponsoring Bjarne Riis and his Saxo-Tinkoff outfit, Oleg Tinkov is allegedly contemplating buying Euskaltel Euskadi's WorldTour license.
Rumours of the Russian businessman and cycling fanatic buying the Basque team's license has circulated for quite a few weeks already, and it now transpires that the rumours might be very well-founded indeed.
According to the always well-informed Alain Laiseka of Basque daily Deia, Tinkov might represent "the team's only chance of survival". The oft-controversial Russian's lawyer, Stefano Feltrin, tells the newspaper that Tinkov is at the time of writing evaluating several dozens business proposals. One of them is from Euskaltel Euskadi.
The team and its main sponsor, Spanish telecom giant Euskaltel, are desperately searching for a new main sponsor to come on board for the next seasons. The Basque public institutions, citing the financial crisis in the country, have failed to come up with the approximated 2-3 million euros they promised at the start of the year. The telephone company, on their part, have decided to cover the budget for the current season, but is unable to provide the budgeted seven million euros for the coming three years.
Deia reports Euskaltel and Tinkov have already held talks. A decision on whether to bankroll the team or not is likely to made when Tinkov visits the Vuelta a España during the race's first week at the end of August.
If he indeed does buy the team's license, the team is set to undergo a complete transformation. The idea in principal is to fund the team for the next five years and move the headquarters from Derio, Biscay, to Tuscany in Italy.
Tinkov would buy the license held by the squad's management company, Basque Cycling Pro Team, and perhaps the team's automotive fleet and some of the staff as well. When it comes to the make-up of the roster, Tinkov will only consider taking on "a few of the Euskaltel riders he finds interesting" - leaving the majority of them without a team for 2014. These "interesting" riders are likely to be picked from the 14 riders with a contract in place for next season, among them the team's biggest stars Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón, Mikel Nieve, Juan José Lobato and the Izagirre brothers.
Tinkov's intention, claims the newspaper, is to create a "completely different team", a team that has "nothing to do with the current one".
Earlier this week, de Galdeano said an announcement on the the team's future is likely to be made before the Vuelta kick-off on Saturday the 24th of August. The team's deadline on finding a new backer was set to September the 1st.
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