UCI rules, Cervélo and "subtle changes"

Friday, 27 August 2010

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We were okay with the significant commitment we originally made to the team, but to increase it is not prudent.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.

Fiasco
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.

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{ 4 comments }

Anonymous August 27, 2010 at 9:58 am

This comment is only slightly on topic. But back in the day when they changed the technical rules on bikes, requiring a "double-diamond" configuration, it was supposed help keep costs DOWN (and please some old school mentalities). Some 10+ years later it seems of little use. The r&d being invested is just as high if not higher. Not to mention all the other areas money is spent to squeak out performance. Its like F1 trying to control top speeds….the teams always find a way. I'd like to see the crazy shaped bikes of the 90's again.

Slapshot August 27, 2010 at 11:16 am

I'd question why we should be surprised at the sneaky going's on within the UCI. The Pro Tour was not a well received plan and the successive iterations to solve it's issues have done nothing to let the sport develop and evolve unless Mr Armstrong is involved or an Mr Murdoch etc etc etc. Sad day but I guess when it comes to it Gerald Vroomen has to watch the numbers and budgets….pity we couldn't see the UCI paying attention to their donations and accounting for them properly!!

Jim August 27, 2010 at 8:45 pm

The eighteen points change never happened, so that wasn't the problem. What did happen was that teams who were in the top 17 but not Pro Tour would be allowed to enter Pro Tour races, provided that they made a financial contribution to the UCI equivalent to what Pro Tour teams were paying to be there (and there was no definition on how exactly that would be worked out – remember a couple of years ago when the Bio Passport was introduced and a couple of Pro Conti teams were rejected for membership of the team version, but invited to join instead a version that charged per rider on the squad, and would cost those teams twice as much as anyone else). On top of that, race organisers are required to pay travel expenses for Pro Tour teams entering Pro Tour races, but not for Pro Conti teams. Consequently it now becomes much more expensive to enter a team in all the top level races if you are outside the Pro Tour than if you are inside. Cervelo clearly decided that it wasn't worth it.

Jasper August 28, 2010 at 9:18 am

Cervélo is a pretty strong team, I think. They have besides the names you say a lot of other good riders.

With Davide Appollonio , Stefan Denifl, Martin Reimer and Marcel Wyss they have really talented riders. Philip Deignan won last year a stage in the Vuelta and was 9th in the GC and Konovalovas is a good time trialist who can win the smaller stage races (with only a time trial).

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