Spotlight on Tinkoff Credit Systems 2007
We've heard about the money Tinkov has at his disposal and the riders he's tried to sign - so what about the finalised Tinkoff Credit Systems squad itself?
Over the course of the winter, we’ve heard a lot about the money millionaire brewer Oleg Tinkov has at his disposal and the rumoured approaches he has made to a host of big-name Puerto-implicated riders (Tyler Hamilton being the only one to actually sign) as he bolsters his team for the 2007 season. But what about the finalised Tinkoff Credit Systems team itself? The roster combines a nucleus of promising young Russian riders, with several experienced Italians experienced hands with proven results. Hamilton himself perhaps falls somewhere in between the two categories – the oldest and most experienced rider on the team, but a potentially unknown quantity, having not raced professionally in over two years. Although Tinkoff boasts riders of the calibre of Hamilton and Grand Tour stage winners and Classics podium finishers in Danilo Hondo and Salvatore Commesso, if some of the more illustrious names fail to shine, there will be a conspicuous drop in quality. Nonetheless, with the best of Russian talent at their resources, several of the riders could blossom into big-race challengers in the years to come.
Tinkov certainly had his chequebook out in the last months, building a team capable of challenging in the Professional ranks from the remnants of his Tinkoff Restaurants squad (formerly Lokomotiv). Though the press alleged that he had offered contracts to scandal-implicated men from Mancebo to Ullrich this winter, this may be a lot further from the truth. Nonetheless, he did poach Tyler Hamilton – an Olympic gold medallist and Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner, two-time Tour of Romandy winner and Giro podium finisher - who has maintained his innocence over the course of his two-year suspension. Cycling communities around the world are anxious to see how the man from Marblehead fares back on the UCI circuit. How will fellow professionals receive him on his return to the peloton? Has he been out of the game too long to show any kind of his previous form and quality? Is he, turning 36 in March 2007, too old? The most likely possibility is from a mixture of the latter two – though Hamilton has been training in dedication since his suspension, it will inevitably take some time for him to shake off the rustiness and feel comfortable in a bunch again. Time may be against him too – most professional cyclists have called it a day by the time the mid-thirties crop up.
Tyler at the 2005 Mt. Washington Hill Climb
Failure to post decent results this year might even prompt cynics to suggest that the crackdown on drugs has led to his demise. Certainly, it will be difficult for Tinkoff Credit Syste,s let alone Hamilton to make a mark on the ProTour, as only those race organisers looking to incur the wrath of the UCI will invite them to their races. A Grand Tour invitation does look highlu unlikely, considering not only the number of doping-related riders in their team but also the fact that, put simply, there are arguably several better quality Professional teams.
German sprinter Danilo Hondo has also had a rollercoaster last two years, being banned, cleared and banned again - all this stemming from a positive test for carphedron in the 2005 Tour of Murcia which he (eventually) succesfully managed to prove erroneous. Still, despite racing last year with small German squad Lamonta, he finished second on the European Tour, picking up eight victories along the way. The thirty-two year old is the team's most likely source of victories, and several races could be centred accordingly, around helping Hondo in sprint finishes.
Ruggero Marzoli should also prove useful in hilly races and bunch sprints. A Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of Poland stage winner, he has endured a winless year for the first time since 2001, taking five runner-up placings including in Stage 8 of the Vuelta and in the Coppa Sabatini and GP Beghelli, as well as eleventh at the Tour of Lombardy. One of the classiest and most underrated riders on the Italian domestic scene, the Pescaran will be a valuable asset for Tinkoff.
After ten years in the top tier of pro cycling, peloton joker Salvatore Commesso has jumped down a step by signing for Tinkoff. An annual illuminator of the Tour de France (and a two-time stage winner to boot), frequently attacking in his trademark sleeveless jersey, the thirty-one year old has been without a win since 2002 but could have better luck at slightly lower-level races. At any rate, the change of scenery, after years at Saeco and Lampre, could do the popular Commesso – an U23 world champion, Italian champion and GP Zurich podium placer, and all before the turn of the 21st century - a world of good. Compatriot Daniele Contrini, like Commesso, will also serve as a wise hand to the younger riders, while still capable of putting in a good result, as we saw at the Tour of Switzerland
Evgeni Petrov Photo c. Bart Hazen
Another man poached from Lampre was Tinkov’s good personal friend Evgueni Petrov, one of Russia’s most talented riders of the current era. Just outside the top ten in Paris-Nice and eighteenth overall at the Vuelta, the Mapei kindergarten team graduate remains a strong climber and could prove helpful to Hamilton, as well as a perfect candidate for contention in smaller tours. The team also poached Ricardo Serrano, who was Kaiku's best rider of the year, thanks partly to stage and overall victory in the Vuelta a la Rioja as well as second at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and seventh in the Clasica San Sebastian. It will, however, be interesting to see how Serrano does on his first foray away from the Spanish domestic scene.
Team Piscina youngsters Nikolai Trussov (l) and Mikhail Ignatiev (r) at the Los Angeles track World Cup.
The future looks very bright for Tinkoff Systems. Belarussian Vasili Kiryienka was the shock of the World Championships, finishing sixth in the men's elite time-trial. Of the young Russians making the move from the old team, Mikhail Ignatiev and Pavel Brutt in particular both are both potential stars in the making. An Olympic points race champion while still a teenager, Ignatiev has been carefully groomed for a road-racing role and has particularly progressed in the last two years, winning the U23 world time-trial championship last year and finishing runner-up this year, alongside a host of results both on the road and the boards.
Brutt meanwhile had a fine 2006, winning six times including a Circuito Montanes stage and the overall at the Cinturon Ciclista International Mallorca. A nimble climber, Brutt, like Ignatiev, has spent years with Itera and Lokomotiv, gaining experience. The next two years will be crucial to their development, but both are tipped for the top.
Tinkoff Credit Systems 2007
Elio Aggiano (Ita)
Pavel Brutt (Rus)
Ilya Chernetskiy (Rus)
Salvatore Commesso (Ita)
Daniele Contrini (Ita)
Tyler Hamilton (Usa)
Danilo Hondo (Ger)
Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus)
Vasili Kiryienka (Blr)
Serguei Klimov (Rus)
Ruggero Marzoli (Ita)
Anton Mindlin (Rus)
Evgueni Petrov (Rus)
Ivan Rovny (Rus)
Alexander Serov (Rus)
Ricardo Serrano (Spa)
Nikolai Trussov (Rus)
Steffen Weigold (Ger)