When former Croatian professional cyclist Vladimir Miholjević and the event entrepreneur Ivan Črnarić joined their formidable forces something had to happen, and it did. Last month, a small west-Croatian coastal region of Istria had been ushered into the world of the big boy cycling events when, as part of their ongoing campaign for the Tour of Croatia 2016, it became the stage for the Tinkoff-Saxo initial 2016 meeting.
Already there’s talk about Croatia being the next big thing on the cycling training camp circuit, but this was the first time that a world-tour cycling team came to Croatia. And it wasn’t just any old team. Tinkoff-Saxo has some of the top-level professional racers on the world stage – Albert Contador is a multiple grand tour champion with Tour de France, Giro di Italia and Vuelta a España all under his belt and his teammate Peter Sagan, the actual world road champion, certainly needs no introduction. Tellingly, Tinkoff-Saxo brought their entire team numbering 26 riders, with Croatian Robert Kišerlovski joining them for the first time.
For four days and nights the entire Tinkoff crew including coaches, nutritionists, mechanics, sports directors, management and medics trained, talked and learned what the next season is all about. The schedule was discussed with the sports directors and equipment was introduced by the team’s technical suppliers who had also been lucky to enjoy the Croatian hospitality and outstanding facilities. In the words of Stefano Feltrin, Managing Director of Tinkoff-Saxo, the meeting signalled the start of the “Tinkoff era” for the team.
If there was any uncertainty about the success of the Croatian camp, there shouldn’t have been. Stefano Feltrin was full of praise for the host town of Poreč and Istria as a whole, as well as for the venue itself which “offers world-class facilities that meet the standards of any top-level professional sports team”.
During their stay in Poreč, all riders underwent a special UCI-mandated medical examination at the Thalassotherapia Opatija clinic, which was also the first time that a top-level professional cycling team has opted for medical examination in a Croatian clinic.
“This is a very important event for Istria, Poreč,
So, in advance of Tinkoff (Saxo will no longer be the part of it in 2016) crew meeting again in December for a two-week training camp, the development of bicycle tourism in Croatia has been propelled in the right direction. Let’s hope it was the first of many such gatherings and that Croatia takes its deserved place on the map of European cycling destinations.