The photo above lists Astana’s official team line up this year (click to enlarge). They started with 27 riders. In May they signed veteran Andrey Mizurov, making it 28 riders. On 1 August they added four stagiaires who can ride in addition. Then on 2 August, Andrey Kascheckin joined, meaning a rule-busting 29 riders. On 22 August Roman Kireyev disappears from the team.
Today there is news that Kireyev has suddenly retired due to a back injury. Having recruited one rider too many, Kireyev’s retirement is very convenient.
Flicked or injured, the story is still confusing me, there are more twists and turns than an Alpine road. Velonation put some questions to the UCI and here’s what a spokesman said to Velonation’s Shane Stokes:
“The situation is that the UCI did accept Kashechkin as the 28th rider of the team, bearing in mind that Mr Vinokurov was retiring. A few hours later, Vinokourov said ‘I think I am coming back’. In that case, Astana were not within the rules as they had a 29th rider. It is not our mistake, as L’Equipe wrote, because we trusted Vino when he said that he will retire. On Friday night, the UCI wrote a letter to the Astana team saying that they are not following the rules and that they need to correct the situation.“
But this leaves me scratching my head as I ponder some questions…
On what grounds did the UCI think Vinokourov was retiring?
Retirement is a formal issue relating to employment status, it’s not the same as saying you might not race again. Astana could only recruit Kasheckin if Vinokourov resigned from the team, ending his contract and thereby freeing up a place. When the UCI say “it is not our mistake… because we trusted Vino” that’s touching but when it comes to someone’s job status, you need things in writing. If there was never formal confirmation of retirement, why was Kascheckin’s licence issued?
If the UCI believed Vino retired, why was he listed in the team?
At no point this year did Vinokourov drop off from the UCI’s team list. By contrast Kireyev was scratched before Astana even announced the 24 year old’s retirement. If the UCI believed he had retired, why did they not remove him from the team list?
If the UCI believed Vino retired, why was he listed in the rankings?
Similarly despite Kasheckin joining on 2 August, Vinokourov remained in World Tour rankings issued on 8, 15 and 22 August. The UCI’s rules (2.10.002) state:
“a rider who, in the course of the year, ceases to be a member of a team which has taken part in one or more events on the world calendar during the year in question, shall be withdrawn from the individual ranking“.
If the UCI did think Vinokourov had left the team when they approved Kasheckin’s licence, how come they still included him in the rankings? He was in the top-10 as well.
Just how bad are Kireyev’s injuries?
Normally an injured rider would be allowed to see out their contract, especially if the injuries are work-related. But a World Tour employment contract can be ended without notice as follows:
Either party shall be entitled to terminate the present contract, without notice or liability, should the Rider be rendered permanently unable to exercise the occupation of professional cyclist.
Is Kireyev permanently unable to ride? Given he’s been racing recently, it makes you wonder.
Perhaps he has found it intolerably painful to race and train, if so then I wish him well. But why not keep him on the team, because ending his contract means ending his right to be paid until the end of the year. Let’s hope his team have been generous and ensured a proper settlement and that they sought expert medical advice to be sure that he has “permanent” injuries.
Have precedents been set?
I’m worried for riders now. Can teams eject a rider mid-season from the squad if they are injured? How is it that Kireyev was facing career-threatening injuries but rode the Tour de l’Ain? Is it ok to recruit a “star rider” from another team mid-season and terminate an injured rider’s contract to make room?
Maybe you hadn’t heard of Roman Kireyev until recently. But the incident shines a light on two subjects.
First, the UCI struggles to apply its own rules when it comes to rankings and, more importantly, a rider’s health and employment status. If the UCI really thought Vinokourov had really retired then they should have removed him from the team as fast as they struck off Kireyev. But Astana had 29 riders for three weeks. Was this just a simple admin error that’s blown up into something more?
Second, the team in question appears to have broken the rules in the rush to sign Kasheckin. Only once this was pointed by L’Equipe on Sunday do we find Kireyev suddenly retiring on Monday morning. This would be amusing if it didn’t concern the career of a 24 year-old rider. Assume the injuries are real and it’s impossible for Kireyev to ride out the season, does he get paid for the rest of the season? What evidence is there that the injuries are permanent and has the UCI satisfied itself that Kireyev hasn’t been flicked for the sake of Kasheckin?
Finally, I like the Astana team. It’s great to have an Asian squad competing at the top level. But both they and the UCI need to come across as professionals who play by the rules. It’s one thing to recuit an extra rider by mistake, it’s another if this shows the UCI can’t enforce its own rules and the only way out for the team is to break an injured rider’s contract.