Certain subtle changes in the rules that govern pro cycling, have established a trend towards bigger budgets to ensure participation in all the big races, and this is not something with which we are comfortable.
We were okay with the significant commitment we originally made to the team, but to increase it is not prudent.
To create the best opportunities for riders, staff, sponsors and other stakeholders, a bigger team environment is needed.
That’s the Cervélo press statement issued overnight. What to make of this? First, it’s low on detail. I’m guessing that “a bigger team environment” means supplying Garmin. The biggest point is that Cervélo are saying that changes to the UCI rules have imposed more costs and squeezed the team out of the sport. It raises the obvious point that the UCI rules need to be introduced more gradually.
What are the “subtle changes”?
Back in May, I detailed leaked UCI plans for 2011 (worth a read). In particular it seems there are plans to allocate a credit of points to Pro Conti teams which gets used up by participation in some of the bigger races. A team like Cervélo will start with 18 points in the bank but has to “spend” these points to enter a Pro Tour race. As I wrote at the time, “riding the Tour de France will “cost” nine points, leaving them another nine to use across the season. For me this will mean the smaller teams will have to be very selective in their racing, a French team might just be able to combine Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France but will have to think twice about the Dauphiné or another important but costly race.” The same rules also mean a squad like Cervélo has to choose between the classics and grand tours.
Whilst the rules probably needed to be modified, doing this with just six months’ notice is a bit daft. Teams have budgets, contracts and plans in place and suddenly rules changes on issues as big as qualifying for races perhaps need to be phased in.
Beyond the rules
Fair enough, sudden rule changes can mess with plans for qualification but rules aside I think that the team might have struggled to get a wildcard for the Tour next year given no obvious GC candidate and Hushovd isn’t the defending Green Jersey rider. So they’ve not just been pushed into this, they’ve jumped too.
Cervélo have always had a very light roster. Yes, Hushovd, Haussler and Sastre are stars and there’s some excitement with Hammond, Tondo and Bos, plus some hardworking guys like Rollin and Lloyd but when I look at a lot of the roster, it screams UCI Continental. Plenty of nice guys but they are one of the weakest teams when it comes to strength in depth.
Still if the rules were introduced very late, the reaction has been a farce. Yes they might impose a greater cost on the Cervélo team but with Sastre gone, that means plenty cash freed up from the budget. Riders will be angered to discover this late in the transfer period. It hasn’t been handled well.