2.15.120 A transfer period extends from 1 August to 20 October. A UCI ProTeam or licence applicant may only recruit riders during the transfer period… …For the purposes of this article “recruit” shall be deemed to mean concluding a contract with a rider to ride for the UCI ProTeam or licence applicant’s team, including situations where the rider in question is already under contract to the same UCI ProTeam or licence applicant at the moment of that recruitment, e.g. in the case of the renewal of an existing contract.
Today is the start of the transfer season and the paragraph above is the relevant UCI rule. Read the first line and you’d think things can only happen from today onwards but look twice and you’ll soon notice the wording that says “‘recruit’ shall be deemed to mean concluding a contract” and that the obvious conclusion to a contract is signing it. In other words a rider and a team can talk any time they like, they can discuss pay, the recruitment of other riders and more. All so long as they don’t “conclude” the contract, in other words they can settle all the terms of the deal and wait for 1 August to ink it.
Beyond this, teams can – and are – engaging riders in additional deals. Rather than a contract to ride, teams are offering deals that state if the rider does sign a contract to ride at some point then additional payments will be made, for example a signing bonus is due. This it is possible for one team to say to a rider that they’ll receive a tidy sum of money should sign with them later in the season. This can get disruptive, for riders are employed with one squad to achieve results… but could find a potential new employer is paying them per UCI ranking point earned, an incentive that might not be aligned with that of their current employer.
In reality the transfer season is open all year round, it is only from today that deals can be signed in full and moves can be confirmed in public. In other words the transfer season is almost meaningless, a window reserved for press releases and photo opportunities.
Riders, managers and agents alike will have been busy for some time. However, most of the effort goes into recruiting high profile ranking riders and it’s really only from July onwards and into August that lesser riders will find they are hired. They tend to fit like smaller pieces of jigsaw, around the star riders.
Can this be fixed? You could outlaw all potential recruiters from talking to riders but it’d be unenforceable, especially since teams could hire agents to talk to the agents used by riders. For me the best thing would be total transparency, if a rider is to talk to a team then it should be done in the open, especially if “pre-contracts” are involved and money could change hands in relation to any offer of employment. But that’s wishful thinking.