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"Let's just say that on August 1, we were calm," Feltrin said. “We offered him a multi-year working project, it wasn’t just an economic project, but a sporting one, which offered him the chance to grow."&...

Photo: Sirotti










09.08.2014 @ 06:41 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

It came as no surprise as the most anticipated transfer of the year, Peter Sagan’s arrival do Tinkoff-Saxo alongside his irreplaceable brother Juraj and Maciej Bodnar, was announced on Friday. Despite some rumors linking the Cannondale leader with Fernando Alonso’s project and Astana, suspicions about his move to the Russian squad were circulating in the cycling media for months, and both rider’s agent Giovanni Lombardi and team CEO Stefano Feltrin shared more details on squaring the lucrative deal right after the contract was eventually signed.


Both Feltrin and Lombardi admitted that an idea of building a team around Sagan planted in Oleg Tinkov’s head in the exact moment when he decided to have a cycling squad of his own. More particularly in July 2013, when he still intended to take over Cannondale ownership.


“I started talking to Sagan in July of last year when we were negotiating with Cannondale, so even at that point, Sagan was in our plans,” Feltrin said. “I had meetings with Lombardi before the potential deal with Cannondale collapsed.”


While talks with Cannondale eventually collapsed and the Russian oligarch decided to continue with Saxo-Tinkoff as a team owner, the negotiations with Sagan’s agent were continued with their focus turned to 2015 season, after current contract of the Slovakian rider with the Italian squad would expire.


It wasn’t a big surprise, obviously, that the 24-year old Slovak became the hottest name on transfer market in 2014 and several big squads have shown a serious interest in signing the talented Cannondale leader. However, details revealed by Tinkoff-Saxo CEO and Lombardi suggest that after giving up on Alonso’s project, everything had been already set by the time when the “Sagan transfer” speculation madness kicked off for good in media.


“You’d need to ask Lombardi how many other offers he had. There certainly would have been Alonso and Cannondale, but every team was interested in signing Sagan,” Feltrin said.


"Let's just say that on August 1 [the official beginning of cycling’s transfer window - ed.], we were calm," Feltrin said. “We were able to offer him a multi-year working project, it wasn’t just an economic project, but a sporting one, which offered him the chance to grow." 


“I spoke with Fernando quite a bit this winter but unfortunately he wasn’t ready to start at the time and we took another path,” Lombardi told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Poland. “But Sagan and Alonso have a great rapport, and I hope Alonso manages to get his team off the ground because it will be good for all of cycling.”


“In December, January, February, Alonso wasn’t ready yet, and we made another choice,” Lombardi said. “The idea to go with Tinkov came about quickly because we knew that Oleg liked Peter a lot. Once we sat down at the table with Oleg, the choice was easy.”


An approximate financial demands concerning Sagan’s new deal was not a big secret from a very beginning and apparently huge interest shown by both media and cycling squads additionally boosted the final figure, but Feltrin made it clear that ensuring to provide the 24-year old Slovak with a strong team for the classics was just as important.


“Obviously the figure is secret, but we’re both happy with the contract,” Feltrin said. “I always say that contracts are only good if both parties are equally happy or equally unhappy. And we’re both happy.”


“We’ve got a commercial mentality. We create a budget and then we respect it – we can’t spend infinitely,” Feltrin said. “Market value is a variable thing. If Peter wins, it’s money well-spent. If he doesn’t, maybe it’s not, but then again, Peter Sagan has a value that goes beyond his sporting value. It’s like what we’re seeing with Rafal Majka in Poland. He’s like super man there, and that has a huge commercial value for the team and sponsors.”


With Matti Breschel, Matteo Tossato and Daniele Benatti already in the squad, Tinkoff-Saxo CEO insists that they’re able to provide Sagan with expected support in monuments, however, still another transfer of valuable classics specialist to the Russian team is expected to be announced, and a name of Team Sky rider Edvald Boasson Hagen was mentioned.


“He wanted to go to a strong team to try and win the big races that he hasn’t won before – the Monument classics, in short,” Lombardi said. “The choice was a good one and we’re happy because it’s a strong team and one that can go and fight in Belgium against Omega, which is currently the strongest team.”


“Peter has big ambitions in the spring classics and I think they’re going to take another one or two strong riders for him for those races. Let’s hope that they do sign these riders that they say they want to sign,” Lombardi said.


“The team is already strong, mind, with Bennati, Bodnar and Breschel. If one or two other big riders come for the classics, all the better, but we’re already happy with how it is.”


“We already have a very strong team for the classics, with [Matteo] Tosatto, [Daniele] Bennati and [Matti] Breschel, we just had a lot of bad luck with in the northern campaign this year,” Feltrin said. “We’ve signed Pavel Brutt, who did enormous work at Milan-San Remo this year, we’ll confirm the arrivals of Juraj Sagan and Maciej Bodnar soon, and we’re going to sign another rider for the classics.”


“Our philosophy is to build a team, not just to fill a roster with champions. And we showed that at the Tour, where we built a team around Alberto, and then we were able to respond as a team when he had to abandon. It will be a similar approach with Sagan.”


Asked about how the team build explicitly around Alberto Contador would work in Sagan’s favour, Feltrin was full of optimist despite Team Sky’s failed attempt to pursue both the yellow jersey with Wiggins and points classification with Cavendish in 2012 edition of the Tour.


“It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity – for both of them,” said Feltrin. “Sagan doesn’t need half a team to help him at the Tour, and besides, our team can help both of them. They’ll be riding on the front in any case to keep Alberto out of trouble. Then Peter is so strong in so many other areas – in the time trial and in the medium mountains – that he can help Alberto too.”


“When Nibali won stage 2 this year, for instance, if Sagan was with Tinkoff, he would have won the stage and taken the yellow jersey,” he said. A lead-out man for both Mario Cipollini and Erik Zabel during his career, Lombardi was not overly concerned by the strength of Tinkoff-Saxo’s sprint train, pointing out that Sagan’s emphasis is squarely on winning in the spring classics.


“They haven’t signed Peter to win sprints. Sure, they want to win those too, but Tinkov wants Peter to make a leap in quality and win the big classics,” he said.


“Certainly, Peter can one day win Liège or even the Tour of Lombardy,” he said. “It’s very hard – impossible, I think – for Peter to win a big tour but in the classics, Peter can win all year long.” 



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