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Michael Rogers: Cycling needs to innovate

Oleg Tinkov is brash — but one of his own riders says the Russian is just what cycling needs

Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov proposed that the sport’s four best grand tour riders contest the Vuelta a España, Giro d’Italia, and Tour de France, and split one million euros between them for their trouble. Possible? Maybe. Intriguing? Sure. Crazy? Maybe.

Mum’s been the word from Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). However, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) eschewed the idea Friday, noting it was self-promotion and little else on Tinkov’s behalf, and that the biggest grand tour riders “certainly” didn’t need the Russian’s money.

Tinkov’s own rider, Michael Rogers, is a man who presumably would have to support Alberto Contador in those grand tours. And he sees Tinkov’s approach a bit differently.

“Cycling is a very traditional sport. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. We’re all very similar. … I think Oleg is cut from a completely different [cloth]. He sees things from a very, very different perspective that we’re probably not used to,” Rogers told VeloNews Friday morning. “I feel it comes along at the right time. I feel we need to change the sport. I feel we need to simplify. It needs a fresh voice, like Oleg’s. It’s pulling cycling out of its comfort zone. That’s probably the best way I can put it.”

Indeed, Tinkov came from another mold than that of the cycling establishment. The self-made man is worth more than a billion dollars, according to Forbes, and has been so off-putting at times on social media that many thought his Twitter account was fake. He posts photos of himself shirtless on a boat talking about taking over the UCI, says he’ll sign Peter Sagan if he gets a certain number of retweets, and even discusses rider salaries in plain sight, like that of his own Nicolas Roche, for example.

“i like Nico but he asked 2million, i can’t [sic],” Tinkov said on social media.

“A lot of people have been upset about what he’s said, and the way he acts. I feel if we don’t change we’ll be pushed out of sport limelight,” Rogers, who won two Giro d’Italia stages and one stage at the Tour in Tinkoff’s yellow, said. Rogers cited this year’s Tour de France Grand Départ in England as a good example of going outside of cycling’s traditions.

“Just those three days in Britain. It’s just amazing. It’s time for the sport to really leverage that, and I feel the way that the sport has been administered by all parties in the past just isn’t going to cut it to really make the sport explode,” he said.

“… But it’s time for cycling to step out of its comfort zone and move forward and be open to these people who want to bring new energy in and a different approach.”