16 teams will take part in the Amgen Tour of California, from 13-20 May. The race organisers announced the invitations yesterday and the full list is available, for example on cyclingnews.com.
As usual, without a pedal being turned there’s satisfaction for some squads but disappointment and frustration for others. I won’t analyse every team’s chances but the invitation of Bontrager-Livestrong and the non-invitation of Team Type 1 are worth evaluating. Here’s a look.
Team Type 1
Remember the race is called the Amgen Tour of California? Amgen is a large US pharmaceutical company. Team Type 1 is backed by Sanofi-Aventis… a large French pharmaceutical company. Sanofi is a direct competitor of Amgen, their have a portfolio of drugs that compete with Amgen and are racing each other in the lab to bring new drugs to the market.
Note Team Type 1 raced last year. But two things to think about here. First, perhaps Amgen’s corporate people didn’t know cycling well enough to realise who TT1’s sponsor was? Second, Sanofi-Aventis is associating itself much more closely with the team this year, the company name is more prominent on the jersey.
What about Omega Pharma?
Despite the name, the Belgian company is a different kind of company that offers over-the-counter consumer healthcare products like eye drops and vitamin supplements, more drug store than drug development.
Perhaps there’s no corporate conspiracy here and the organisers just felt like inviting others, TT1 had a go last year and maybe they’ll be back next year? Still if I was working for Amgen, I’d probably want Team Type 1 to be racing elsewhere.
Team Two Types?
Note the inclusion of Radioshack-Nissan and Bontrager-Livestrong with the latter squad a feeder or development squad for the former. Normally two linked teams can’t race together, there are rules:
2.2.001 Riders belonging to teams with the same paying agent or main partner may not compete in the same race except in the case of an individual event. Furthermore, no more than one national team of each nationality may compete in an event. In addition, the participation of both a UCI ProTeam and the development team supported by this same UCI ProTeam in accordance with article 2.15.130 is prohibited.
Livestrong-Bontrager has connections to Radioshack but there is no shared “paying agent” nor is it the development team. Yes the Bontrager-Livestrong squad was the feeder team for Radioshack last year. But following the merger with Luxembourg squad Leopard, Radioshack-Nissan’s development squad is Leopard-Trek, the UCI Continental team run by Adriano Baffi, Markus Zingen and Tim Vanderjeugd. So under the rules Bontrager-Livestrong can race alonside Radioshack-Nissan.
However a degree of legal separation does not mean both squads are independent of each other. With shared sponsors and common heritage these squads could well have an incentive to collaborate during the race, if only on an implicit level. Note this isn’t speculative thinking, we have seen the UCI quietly rule that Russian squads Katusha and Rusvelo can’t race together because ultimately these teams have too much in common. And besides even linked teams do race together, nobody noticed the UCI ruling in the Dwars Door Drenthe race the other day. Rabobank’s Theo Bos won and the Dutch squad was joined by its own Rabobank Continental Team.
As I often repeat cycling is relentlessly commercial and these imperatives mean one company won’t be keen to give publicity to a rival. I don’t know if this explains why TT1 didn’t get an invite but it’s a mighty incentive, no?
Don’t be surprised to see Bontrager-Livestrong doing a pull on the front in support of Radioshack-Nissan. They can race together under the rules but have incentives to ride together, eg to publicise Trek and Bontrager.
- A final thought. With 10 days of the UCI World Tour in China – that’s more than Belgium – isn’t it time for the US to get a World Tour race? Hopefully the Tour of California can build and join the top calendar. The UCI has an incentive to fix this because the background talk of breakaway leagues will fill the vacuum if the governing body does not.