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Tinkov aims for top after buying Riis team

Saxo Bank-SunGard team manager Bjarne Riis of Denmark attends a news conference at the Tour de France media centre in Les Herbiers June 30,
Saxo Bank-SunGard team manager Bjarne Riis of Denmark attends a news conference at the Tour de France media centre in Les Herbiers June 30,

By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - Oleg Tinkov is aiming to build the best team in world cycling after buying the Danish outfit owned by former rider Bjarne Riis, the Russian entrepreneur said on Monday.

The team will initially be built around Spaniard Alberto Contador who has settled his differences with the Russian after they fell out during the Tour de France this year.

Tinkov's company was a co-sponsor of the team this year along with Denmark's Saxo Bank.

The entrepreneur, who according to media reports has paid six million euros ($8.1 million) for the team founded more than a decade ago by Dane Riis, said there would be additional funding to strengthen the squad over the next few years.

"We could buy, and we will buy, more riders, stronger riders, more stars if you wish," Tinkov told a news conference before adding that the lineup for next season had already been settled.

He initially said he would not renew his deal with the team after sniping at Contador online when the former winner finished only fourth in the Tour.

"Oleg and I have spent a lot of time together and what happened immediately after the Tour is a long way behind us," Contador told the same news conference.

"The riders I need to help me achieve my ambitions will have their future guaranteed for the coming years."

MANAGER RIIS

The new owner's Tinkoff Credit Systems company will be the main title sponsor for the next three years.

Saxo Bank, a backer since 2008, will remain as the second sponsor in 2014 when the team will compete under the Tinkoff-Saxo name.

Riis, who won the 1996 Tour de France, has agreed a three-year deal as team manager.

Tinkov said he has been passionate about cycling since he got his first bike as a 12-year-old growing up in Siberia.

He believed it was a good time to invest in the sport as it recovers following the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

"I strongly believe doping is over," said Tinkov. "In serious and big teams there is no issue about that now.

"It's over now, cycling has changed," adding he had zero tolerance for doping.

Setting out his strategy Tinkov seemed keen to learn lessons from the success of Britain's Team Sky which has provided the last two Tour de France winners.

"I think nutrition programmes, recovery, diet, discipline and good training, that is cycling today," he said.

($1 = 0.7377 euros)

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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