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“I feel great about the fact that he will seek direct confrontation under the same conditions with the best riders in the world. This year he was too tired after the Giro to confront the riders who had prepared perfectly for the Tour....

Photo: Tinkoff-Saxo / BettiniPhoto






24.10.2015 @ 07:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Patxi Vila has met the expectations in his first year as sports director and trainer at Oleg Tinkov’sTinkoff-Saxo team. The Spaniard has contributed to a more technical structure in the team led by Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan and is satisfied with the experience he has gained in the team.


“After two great years working at Specialized where I gained much technical knowledge and after my professional career, I decided to take make a big step and I have to say that it was a good year,” he told Biciclismo in an interview. “I have just arrived and I have a lot to learn, but I have a year of experience in a world class team. Things were very hard as we had a chance to win in the big races. So I'm very happy with the decision I made ​​a year ago.

“I'm director and coach, with a more technical approach, and at that level have to give everything I can. There are other directors who have much more experience in sports management, so my job was to support my colleagues with a technological vision. 

“My contribution was based on a triangle: my experience as a rider, preparation that I love and the more technical issues. I have worked, particularly in the first few months, at the technical level, how to prepare the time trial, the equipment for road races, attention to technical details because there were people on the team with more experience as a coach and as a director.”


Vila had one of his highlights when he watched team member Peter Sagan roar to victory in the World Championships road race.


“I watched it with much intensity,” he said. “It seems that everybody was pleased; that means it is a good guy. And I can confirm that. He is very committed. By how he focuses on cycling I think he deserved a big win this year and what better race than the Worlds, after 15-16 second places, five in the Tour. He will enjoy the next year.”


Sagan has become famous for his many second places which have often been the result of tactical mistakes stemming from his versatility that can allow him to both sprint and attack. However, Vila doesn’t regard his multifaceted skills as a weakness.

“I do not see it as a problem, but rather as an asset,” he said. “I would define him as a reference in the bunch, a bit like Alejandro Valverde. You know if he is ahead, he has many chances to win and that can work against him.  Everyone is always focused on him. First, they try to leave him behind, and then they try to win. That means that he has to approach the races differently.”


Sagan is also known for his personality off the bike.


“All riders are partly riders and partly a public or media personality”, Vila said. “It is clear that Peter is a great rider and is supported by a powerful image. When he steps off the bike, no one forgets about him. Instead, the show continues. I think it's something he and his entourage will have to manage because it can be a burden on his performance. I think it's good for him and for cycling, provided he is well managed.”


In addition to Sagan, Vila also got the chance to work with Alberto Contador. One thing stood out in his first year with the Spaniard.


“His great professionalism,” Vila said. “I think there are few people who devote so much energy to work. He is meticulous and obsessed in the best sense of the word, and he has an ability to create and meet challenges that he faces. An example is to win the Giro-Tourd double, knowing that it is difficult, because a big win is not enough for him. He wants two, and that makes him a great rider.”


Next year Contador will put all his emphasis on the Tour.


“I feel great about the fact that he will seek direct confrontation under the same conditions with the best riders in the world,” Vila said. “This year he was too tired after the Giro to confront the riders who had prepared perfectly for the Tour.”


Next year Vila will work with Ivan Basso in a different role as the Italian is set to join the staff in an unspecified tole.

“He was a great rider and especially a person who can read between the lines,” Vila said. “This past year he tried until the last breath and he has now accepted the situation. He knows that he has made the right decision. Personally, it has been fantastic to work with him because when I was in doubt, I always called him and he has always helped me with his experience. It has been a pleasure to work with him and will remain so because he will continue in the team structure.”


The third big leader at Tinkoff-Saxo is Rafal Majka who was third in the Vuelta a Espana.

“Rafal is growing little by little,” Vila said. “He had already been 7th and 6th in the Giro. The podium in the Vuelta is  a very important step. We all knew that he could do it but there is a big difference from that to actually making it. And once you make the podium in a Grand Tour, you are not far from the win. I don’t know his limits. I don’t think we’ve found them year. We will search for them and try to improve. Every year has been constant evolution, something I like, and I will try to help him to improve. The natural target should be trying to win a grand tour.”


The same can be said about Sagan.


“Peter is still only 25 years old and it is clear that sport is about maturity too,” he said. “The best Peter Sagan is yet to come in the coming years. His objective will be the great classics as they evidently are the ones best suited to his characteristics.”


In 2015, Vila got the first chance to work with team owner Oleg Tinkov who has often been a controversial figure in cycling.


“He loves this because, otherwise, he would not put all those money on the table,” he said. “Oleg is a very direct and sincere person. I personally like that because it does not lead to misunderstandings. He makes his opinion very clear to the public.”


However, Tinkov has also created a bit of uncertainty regarding the future of the team as he has only guaranteed the existence for the 2016 season.


“We focus on the daily work and the riders,” Vila said. “I honestly do not think much about it. We have an important year ahead of us, with Contador going to try to win the Tour, with a world champion, with young boys... Next season is very important Ffor us. This year we have achieved the same number of wins, 29. The difference is that last year we won with eight riders and this year we won with 14. That means that the average level has been raised. So we worked well because one of the objectives was to diversify the results and we succeeded. We have three, four riders at a high level, and others behind that can also get their chance. We will try to continue to grow.”



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