Riders Blocked From Racing

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

It looks like the perfect picture for a cycling team. A smiling rider stands tall on the podium, dressed in yellow with the team logos in evidence as the girls hold their pose for the cameras. Even his sunglasses are perched just right on the team-issue baseball cap. But there’s something wrong with the picture.

I’m not talking about the composition of the image. You might notice the podium girls haven’t zipped up their jerseys fully but it’s not that. No, the problem here is that Radioshack-Nissan’s Jakob Fuglsang has won a race and bizarrely this could prove damaging for the interests of his team.

The Danish rider is linked with a move to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. Today Denmark’s Ekstra Bladet reports that Radioshack-Nissan have told Fuglsang that he won’t race any World Tour races for the remainder of the year (in English, via cyclingnews.com). This is because he is leaving the squad and any ranking points earned will accrue to his new team, likely to be the Danish Saxo-Tinkoff team, when the UCI evaluates a team’s chances of a 2013 licence later this year.

Fuglsang is not alone. Riders who sign for a new team or even indicate that they intend to leave are being punished by their current squads who stop from racing for the rest of the season. The explanation is simple: if the rider scores UCI ranking points then will be count towards the total of their new squad for the following year. Something is wrong here.

Analogy Time
Step away from the sport and imagine two factories making bike parts. Factory A has a machine that makes headsets and the owner of Factory B makes an offer to buy the headset machine which is accepted. Normally the equipment would be dismantled and moved out of one factory and installed into the other. Production restarts and in time Factory B hopefully makes money.

In pro cycling riders are assets too. Only when they sign from Team A to Team B they carry on racing with their existing team until the end of the season. If they win a big race the publicity and glory goes to the existing team but the UCI ranking points are counted at the end of the year for the new team. It is as if a share of our headset machine’s output is going to Factory B whilst Factory A is still having to run, supply and maintain the machine for several months. This creates conflicting and perverse incentives for a team owner. They want the results and publicity but they don’t want another rival team to profit.

Why would any team invest in a guy that is one foot out the door?

Those are the worlds of Garmin-Sharp team owner Jonathan Vaughters. Hearing stories that Vincenzo Nibali is going to Astana, Vaughters tweetedIf I were Liquigas, Nibali would not be going to the Tour. Sorry” but added that he’s taken riders who were leaving to the Tour de France and mentioned Hushovd on Twitter who had a stellar Tour de France, winning prime time coverage for Garmin but ranking points for BMC although Hushovd later wanted to ride the Vuelta and could not. Vaughters is unique because he uses Twitter to explain these things out loud to fans but other squads do the same.

I can see the different sides of the argument:

  • A rider just wants to race. Their career is short enough without being blocked from racing. In some cases they need a grand tour in their legs to be competitive the following year. If they earn points then their value to an employer rises.
  • The existing team needs to balance the need for publicity for itself and its sponsors with its survival and ranking at the end of the year. In the case of Fuglsang Radioshack-Nissan is fighting fires on several fronts right now and gifting Saxo points is a threat as the Luxembourg team could face relegation from the UCI World Tour given the lack of results and the stampede to leave.
  • Sponsors have paid good money for results. On the outside it seems Fuglsang has been riding strongly and could have been a useful rider in the Tour de France. If I was sponsoring the team I’d be annoyed to fund the wages of a rider knowing he will not offer me a return in publicity.
  • For the recruiting team they might even sign a rider midway in the season and offer a bonus for every World Tour ranking point, say €1,000 per point. This is done in secret.
  • We can’t forget the fans either. Many will want to see a particular rider in action and will struggle to understand why some riders are blocked from racing.

It’s a classic scenario where points and money create incentives and unintended consequences. The UCI awards the top-18 teams “ProTeam” status on the basis of four criteria, one of which is “sporting merit” which means the squad’s haul of ranking points. Confusingly the UCI does not add up the publicly available total of ranking points but uses an internal spreadsheet to evaluate teams but what is obvious is that team leaders and their results and points matter. The UCI didn’t create this scheme to see riders “parked” for half a season but the rules as they stand can incentivise this practice.

Fuglsang’s case stands out. We should note that if Radioshack-Nissan does block him from World Tour races then if he’s not riding the Tour de France in July he can’t even do the Tour de Pologne. Within the team we should note Linus Gerdemann appears to have been parked but perhaps he’ll ride in Poland? Similarly Joost Posthuma has said in public he wants to leave.

Is this legal?
Riders might not be picked for races but (hopefully) they are paid in full and therefore no obvious employment laws are broken. Teams have no duty to give riders a fixed amount of racing per year and squad selection for a race is a subjective process. One avenue for a frustrated rider is the European right for equal treatment of employees because this is an iniquitous treatment, he is being discriminated against when he has done nothing wrong. But a rider might need a good lawyer and plenty of time.

Indeed it could be flipped around. In employment it can be the case that when an employee leaves one firm to join another they can be placed on “garden leave” whereby they are paid in full but told not to show up for work until their contract expires. This protects the current employer from the employee stealing secrets or being a destabilising influence in the workplace. If anything should a team want to block a rider it might consider doing this on a formal basis.

UCI reform
The obvious solution is to fix the points system. If a team spends money coaching a rider and supporting them during a race then it is logical it gets the benefits. Win a race and if the publicity follows for the team, maybe the points should count too. In fact this encourages investment in coaching and rider support which has to be good. On a simple basis the ranking points could be split 50-50 between the old team and the new team. This will still create distortions but helps to narrow them.

Another avenue would be for stronger rider rights. If a team openly states it won’t let a rider compete then the UCI needs to investigate. But the UCI rules (and the AIGCP-CPA joint agreement) specify rest and health but don’t reference a right to race. The riders have a form of union in the CPA and this looks like an obvious campaign issue.

Finally there is a section of the UCI rulebook that needs to be enforced and it relates to riders and teams signing deals outside of the transfer period. I’ve written before about this subject and to summarise the UCI rules say a rider and teams can only sign deals during a transfer period that runs from 1 August to 20 October. But this is a joke, the recruitment of key riders for a team is so critical for a team’s future that nobody waits for the transfer period. Instead talks happen all the time and deals are inked; if not formal employment contracts then signing bonuses and optional agreements are deployed.

Summary
Perhaps Fuglsang has been a bit too public is his desire to leave for another team but individuals aside this is a systemic concern for pro cycling. The UCI’s ranking system is essential but the law of unintended consequences means the same rules create perverse incentives that harm the interests of the sport. Some team managers are minded to block riders from racing, especially if the rider has a good chance of winning. This is madness.

Everyone is a loser here. Racers don’t race. Sponsors get less coverage. Teams get divisive. Fans don’t understand. The UCI looks clumsy. You’d think this is an incentive to fix things but there’s nothing on the table for now. The UCI has tweaked its internal rankings calculations to place more weight on a squad’s top riders in order to reduce the incentive on team helpers to chase points rather than support their leader… but this only means a team leader’s value is ever more dependent on their points haul. Thus a rider like Fuglsang is hit harder.

Reform is needed but it needs to be done with care because if things are rushed the risk is the same happens again. Rules aside, it just doesn’t seem sporting to block a rider. Plus you’d think Radioshack-Nissan need some good publicity and results after a disappointing season. Rather than worrying about next year’s rankings, it’s this year’s results that are missing.

Guy June 27, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I think you anticipated such a scenario in another piece you wrote. It doesn’t surprise me that Bruyneel would act in such a way. However, it would have been prudent for Fuglsang to shut his mouth (or Tweets) and leave his agent to negotiate with other teams.

Q June 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I agree. There’s plenty of childish behavior to go around here, but Fuglsang’s problems are partly of his own making. Of course, at the rate things are falling apart for Radio Shack, it’s entirely possible that enough other riders get on Bruyneel’s bad side before the end of the season that Fuglsang gets a second chance.

Sam June 27, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Good point. If this is the problem faced with releasing details, why do the riders/their agents/their future teams do it? There is no reason that the riders current team know. Why is someone shooting themselves in the foot?

Jon MacKinnon June 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm

With a number of RSN riders already admitting they’re looking to leave, including brothers Schleck, Bruyneel in hot water with the USADA, and Flavio Becca reportedly in financial trouble, what’re the chances of the team realistically carrying on into next season?

Admittedly, Andy and Fränk haven’t had the best season so far this year (major understatement), but we know they have the ability to put in the results, so it’s not like they’d have too much trouble finding themselves a new team, especially if the rumours of them starting fresh again are true, in which case they’d probably pull the best riders over from RSN such as Cancellara, Voigt, Monfort, etc. meaning it wouldn’t be too difficult for them to free themselves, leaving RSN in a bit of a Saxo Bank situation for the 2013 season, with no real team leader, and chasing stage wins in order to get enough points to carry on as a team.

jkeltgv June 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I agree – basically RSN won’t exist next year so it is probably just our favourite DS Johan being spiteful to Riis.

Larry T. June 28, 2012 at 8:16 am

This team is as big a mess as the old Le Groupement squad was…in the history books they’ll probably be mentioned in the same short paragraph. Karma might finally be catching up with various members of this team? The most laughable thing to me is riders who left the autocratic Mr. 60% for this outfit are now considering crawling back after enduring the (as I predicted) even more egocentric, control-freak management style of The Belgian. The point system is indeed screwed up but I’ve got no real idea how to fix it…some of the schemes mentioned here sound like they would be better. Is the UCI listening? Do they care?

Robert June 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Nothing new. This happens for many, many years. Maybet it’s now more important for the points but even in the time of Raleigh with Peter Post a rider who said to leave the team was an outlaw.

yen June 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Bruyneel has made himself out to be a total jerk in this…if he was understanding enough and had any backside as his position then i guess Fuglsang wouldnt have made comments as he has. I feel for the lad personally as he is obviously a class rider but for some reason JB is like a viper…only happy when he’s with his fellow snake – armstrong, i wont even give him a capital letter!

Adam June 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

yen,
I don’t like JB, but part of this piece was to point out that he’s not the only one doing this. Thor was fuming last year when Vaughters didn’t let him ride the Vuelta, and he basically sat out all of his Austrailian riders after learning about the formation of Green-Edge. Similarly it doesn’t make sense to bring Nibali to the Tour when you could put all your assets behind Sagan who is signed for two more years with the team.

BS June 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Nibali is going to Nibali, eh?

The Pelican June 27, 2012 at 1:29 pm

JV (and I love him, he’s great for the sport) certainly practiced the same principle with the Aussies he lost to GE last year. I agree the UCI needs to get out of it ivory tower and fix this problem – it is becoming a blight on the sport and is super unfair for the teams and the athletes. UCI’s fault yet again!

ironinthesoul June 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Perhaps this public declaration is another strong arm tactic by the RSNT bigwigs to quel what it a rapidly growing frustration amongst the riders in the team? It doesn’t sound a happy team and it seems it is easier to list the riders wanting to stay rather than those wanting to go.

PS Not sure Nibali is setting up his own, self-named team as you suggest in paragraph 7! :-)

Peter June 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I think the points-system is absurd. Theoretically, the following is possible:

Team A and Team B are both in the lowest regions of the World Tour (points-wise), competing for a WT license with each other, with Team A being slightly higher than Team B. Rider X from Team A gets a few wins in Season 1 (of course thanks to the entire Team A), and thus adds quite some points to tally. If the teams stay the same, Team A has the advantage over Team B and might end up in the WT, while Team B can try at the Pro-conti level.
But, if Rider X tranferred to Team B for Season 2, this would change the order: Team B goes to the WT and Team A gets a Pro-conti license. And this is the incredibly absurd part: IF Team A (Rider X) had NOT taken (all) those wins in Season 1, they might still be a WT team! So, if they hadn’t performed as well in Season 1 as they did and scored fewer points, they could end up higher on the sporting-scale (compared to Team B at least). Again, the better performance of Team A in Season 1 is what makes them lose out on a WT license in Season 2. This is completely the opposite of what you expect.

This might be a bit abstract, but the point still is clear I think. I wonder why it isn’t the team that gets the points, but (only) the rider.

ncrow June 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Is it really about WT points though? RSNT has plenty of points. I think Bruyneel just wants to punish Fuglsang. Just like how Riis punished Porte last year by riding him into the ground for Contador in back to back grand tours.

Peter June 27, 2012 at 2:26 pm

In this case it isn’t, but my post was directed at the system in general and the bizarre situations it could lead to (of which Fuglsang’s is also one if you ask me).

Adam June 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

RSNT doesn’t actually have that many points. Look at it like this, every point Contador earns for Saxo in this years Veulta and Lombardi won’t count for the team rankings as he’s back from suspension. Currently Saxo have only slightly more than zero WT points, and meeting the sporting criteria for WT is worth millions in sponsorship dollars. In this setting, why would JB allow Riis to poach his rider, with points earned on his team to Riss’ huge financial gain when he can instead field another RSNT rider in the squad to try and earn points? Gotta hate the game, not the playa.

girona June 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm

@Peter: great resume, that example really explaines the problem here.

Peter June 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm

An analogy that just comes to my mind:
What if a football team (soccer for some of you) wouldn’t stay in the top division if they won a match, but would stay in it if they lost?

Sinai June 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Some Americanization could work here – Allow midseason trades.
If RSNT could trade Jakob Fugulsag to Saxo Bank for let’s say David Tanner and a future second round pick which turns into a first round pick in case of a top 10 in the Vuelta then this would solve the problem!

Anonymous June 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Negotiating at your biggest race of the year for a new job is a massive conflict of interest – only in cycling !

ncrow June 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm

What a shit show.

– Unless a team never talks to riders outside the transfer period, it’s hypocritical to sit your own riders down when they do.

– Fuglsang should stop whining. Perhaps when you join a team formed in less than ethical circumstances, you shouldn’t be surprised when the team does not act ethically towards you.

– This seems pretty petulant from Bruyneel though. No Tour is one thing. No Vuelta, I’m less fine with, but I am still OK. No WT races is just childish.

– Everyone wants to compare this to Vaughters and Hushovd, but that really was a different circumstance. The Garmin debate was over a single race and Vaughters had lots of young riders under contract for the next year that needed to develop. Garmin had still brought Hushovd to the Tour knowing he was probably going to leave.

Ronan June 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Why not just leave the pints with the team under whose jersey they were won. The teams are (in effect) paying riders for points through their results. Any transfer and contract negotiation is made on the potential future results and earning of points. It works in every other sport quite well, and I don’t see how it’s not a better solution than the riders carrying the points with them.

AK June 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm

two things
-Teams are not stationary things. Teams can fall apart even if they have good results (HTC), new teams can come out of nowhere ( Leopard).
-You want the best riders in the world tour, regardless of what team they’re in. If Saxo-Tinkoff buys a whole bunch of great riders, you want them in the WT next year, even if they don’t score a single point this year.

I think some system that takes the team’s history into account a bit would be better. And that the system that too harsh on riders that have a bad season due to injury or other bad luck. If a rider’s worth for the 2013 season was counted 60/40 2012/2011 season, and a team’s worth by 60/40 2013 rider’s worth/2012 results, the whole thing would be a lot fairer. Note that this means the value of the team is no longer the same as the sum of it’s rider values. (ps in this system I just made up, if the team/rider was not part of the game in 2011 of course, you count 2012 results only)
(ps2 just an example, different percentages/more seasons is possible too)

Dan June 27, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Those are both valid points but I am sure that something could be done to address them.

I’m not sure why High Road’s demise would really be a problem in a system where the points stay with the team. That just opens a spot for another team.

When a new team is created it isn’t a total mystery whether they will be strong or not. When you look at Green Edge, Sky, Leopard, and so on, you can look at the riders on that team and make a judgement on whether or not they should be in the WT. If you make a new team out of WT riders, it is probably safe to say that the team belongs in the WT. Maybe you work out some deal where a new team gets wild card invitations to the big races for a year to give them a chance to prove themselves and earn some WT points properly.

I really do think awarding the points to the team makes more sense. I like to think that it would reward teamwork and help create more of a team spirit. That could in turn be good for the fans and selling merchandise as well.

Matt June 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I’s ok, JB is a fair and reasonable man. Frandy are on the out too, so Frank will be pulled from the Tour and Andy won’t race the Vuelta..

oh no, wait…

rebs June 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm

You cannot fault teams for doing this. They have to act within the interests of the team.

The points structure needs to be changed and it just goes to show that the top races are likely not to have the top riders racing. There must be plenty of point systems that must be a better alternative.

Would it not work that a perhaps the points a rider picks up in the season be split 50% to the team he is leaving to the team is joining. I’ve not totally thought this through so anyone able to point out how this could be bad feel free. My aim of suggesting this is simply to alway worther riders to race instead of being locked away because a contract expires. Riders should be able to full full on for the whole length of a contract they have. Being told you cant race and it isn’t because you are not good enough must be fustrating.

Kasper June 27, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Would it be likely that this is actually the sponsors that are forcing the squad to state an example to avoid any more bad press. I mean, it’s bad press every time a riders goes out and says they want to leave. This makes the team and the sponsors look bad.

Maybe the sponsors have said to Johan B. that he should ban Fuglsang to set an example and use it as a scare tactic so no other rider will talk publicly about the team in any negative way out of fear of being banned?.

Ronan June 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Avoid bad news stories by creating one really bad news story? That, as Baldrick would say, is a cunning plan.

Playvelo June 27, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Any publicity is good publicity as the saying goes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the sponsors had some say in this matter. I suspect the inclusion of Horner, and thus the exclusion of Fuglsang, was likely the result of the sponsor’s influence. If they couldn’t have Andy on the team then the team, sponsored by an American company, needed an American rider to be included.

Kasper June 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm

DS on RSNT Lars Michaelsen has said to danish news outlets that the decision was taken by Johan Bruyneel and Flavio Becca. So maybe there has been some concern from the sponsors.

Touriste-Routier June 27, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Yes the points system is flawed, and riders need to learn to keep their mouths shut, but no matter what is done with the points, the whole basis for this system (the World Tour) is flawed. No one really cares about the World Tour! It isn’t important to fans and the overall title isn’t important to the teams or riders (in and of itself). It is only important to weaker teams who don’t think they’d be invited to some of their target races, if their selection wasn’t automatic, new races struggling for legitimacy (think China’s high profile races), and the UCI, who have so many conflicts of interest, that it is farcical.

Dump the points and dump the World Tour and what do you have? Racing as it has been done for over a century: where winning counts for the sake of winning, domestiques can be valued for the work they do, race organizers can invite teams based upon satisfying their audience (sponsors & fans) and generating publicity.

Yes, teams will shrink in size (and in budget), but in general this is probably a good thing; how many sponsors can afford budgets in excess of 10 million Euros? There are a lot more sponsors that can afford 10 – 20% of that, and whose target audience is closer to home than a mandatory race in far flung places in January or late October.

What will happen to these “lesser” races? Most likely nothing, if they were viable events without forcing teams to participate. All professional races will attract teams who are looking for opportunities to race. A race doesn’t need the top riders in order to entertain the layman; a thrilling show is all that is required. And there a dearth of opportunities for 2nd tier teams to show themselves and to develop riders, particularly outside of Europe.

Cycling is a sport of distinct individual interests; the riders, the teams, the race organizers, and the federations all have their own agendas. Since there is not enough of a shared common interest, forcing everyone into a quasi league is causing more problems than it solves. The points allocation is just symptomatic of this.

Rooie June 27, 2012 at 2:34 pm

@Torusite Routier
Hear, hear! But especially ASO would welcome your view. They are already holding so many strong cards and your solution would be mean that ASO would become the one and only power in cycling. I don’t know if that’s a good thing to look forward to.

Touriste-Routier June 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm

@Rooie
Yes, ASO is strong, but so are Flanders Classics and RCS, among others. They will be strong with the World Tour, they will be strong without it. Any event organizer can attract top teams if they can generate publicity, prize money, and stipends.

I would fear these parties dominance less than the UCI’s in house promotion department, who are giving new events top billing with a stroke of their own pen, while the others are forced to make their events viable the old fashioned way, by working for it.

Spofferoonie June 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Surely the best way round this is to give half the points to the rider and half the points to the team – in that way good riders can be paid what they’re worth at the new team but the team that helped them to those points in the first place (unless they ALL come from breakaways) also gets rewarded.
That’s probably too sensible for the UCI though . . .

TheDude June 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm

50% share of points is a very interesting suggestion. Simple and easy to understand. Perhaps it will not obviate all the problems all the time, but logically seems to balance the stilted issue at hand now.

Good Grief June 28, 2012 at 4:29 am

And what of the team riders riding in support of those wins with WT points? Shouldn’t they take a percentage of the points they helped the winning rider/s & team accrue as well?

Zosim June 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm

50-50 could lead to some interesting things. Lets say Fuglsang is pencilled in at Saxo, you then have 2 teams with vested interests in working together. If both Saxo and RSNT know they can get points by working as a single unit, you end up with super teams, particularly if they exchange riders. If, as briefly rumoured, the Schlecks and Contador had been swapped, you could have had both teams racing, effectively, for 100% points and you’d have had half a squad hammering the competition on the flat stages and the other half cracking the field on the mountains.

I don’t have a better suggestion except for it to be like motorsports where teams earn separately to drivers and so you can’t just buy points if you have a bad year. After all, if it’s up to the UCI, surely they can just set it up so they can give pro-tour licenses to anyone they want.

Matt June 27, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I like the 50-50 idea a lot and even wrote JV a letter a few years ago outlining the benefits. Another distribution would be 40-40-20 where 20% of the points go to the members of the team riding in support (each getting only about 3%, but it adds up and shows their value in a small way)

peloton.pl June 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm

However we would split shares it would still be a major win-win improvement compared to current way.

AJ June 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Fuglsang should have just said that LA is innocent – then he’d have been riding the tour.

Jerome June 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm

like!

Anonymous June 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm

“Riders might not be picked for races but (hopefully) they are paid in full and therefore no obvious employment laws are broken”….

Potentially constructive dismissal:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructive_dismissal

Altering job description can be cause for constructive dismissal. Even if the # race days is not defined in a contract, if it’s less than reasonable then there could be a case. Employment law is never black and white.

Raouligan June 28, 2012 at 10:27 pm

I don’t think this is the case the rider is leaving on his own grounds and the team have no obligation to allow him to gain Pro Tour points they could field him in continental races, no problems.

MadPat June 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I think 50/50 doesn’t address the issue with role players not getting any acknowledgment for their help, similar to what happened to Porte in 2011 Giro and the Tour.

Perhaps below might be more equitable.
40% of the points goes to the rider
40% of the points goes to the team
20% of the points split amongst the team members that raced

This way everybody’s work is rewarded.

Vera June 27, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I guess I don’t understand the logic about the points going to the new team in the first place…

Patrick June 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I can understand RSN’s reasons but as a Fuglslang fan I’m disappointed that they’ve done this.

As you said Ring, the points system has produced unexpected consequences and this is perhaps the most extreme example (Hushovd missed much less of the season).

It’s apparent that there should be points for the team for the season and points for the riders, the rider takes their points to show market value, and the teams keep the points to show overall ranking. How cycling continues to exist in it’s present form is a genuine mystery…

Ronan June 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Patrick, I don’t understand the logic of ‘he rider takes their points to show market value’ as it’s not reflective of a rider’s worth in the team. Is it reflective that, for example, Greipel would get a tonne of points while Henderson gets none, even if one seems to be the catalyst for making Greipel much more successful? The best way to assess the market value of a rider is with your eyes and your brain. Any DS that would use an arbitrary points system to make a sporting rather than a commercial decision should go the way of Eric Boyer.

Patrick June 28, 2012 at 9:39 am

Good point Ronan, you can see this illustrated by Renshaw’s promotion to sprinter at Rabobank.

On another note, isn’t it great that people can disagree politely in the comments here at Inner Ring, a pity that the internet isn’t more like this.

Ankush June 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Good lord, we’ve been through this so many times but UCI still doesn’t seem to notice. Points system needs to be fixed. Period.

xyz June 27, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I never liked the points system, as I see it, it only benefits the top riders and those who wants to create a new team and have the money to buy riders/points so they can go directly into the pro tour, everybody else loose.
As long as we operate with a system with leagues there of course is a need for a way to qualify to the first division, and imo it is rather simple, give the points to the teams and not to the riders, it is not that the teams don’t know the value of the riders, they surely do that and will still compete to get the best riders and the riders will still be paid according to their results and value for a team.
If the teams get the points they will race as good as they can, and they will use the riders on the team to the best. I think it is fairly simple.

Regarding Fuglsang he should learn to not speak bad about the team he is riding for, it is becoming quite a habit of his, he did the same when he left Riis, and no matter what kind of work you have, speaking bad about the workplace is never a good thing, especially when it is a small world.
Of course if there are a serious problem at the workplace/team, then employees/riders should address that problem, but through the right canals and that could sometimes means the media, but hopefully there would be other ways available.

Orchies les Auchies June 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm

What do I take from this? Frank and Andy are ditching their existing team for a 2nd time and seeking another experiment where they are theoretically in charge. Will the same faces that followed them from Riis line up for their Act 2 of the Schleck Diaries? Will this give a boost to the Rothschild breakaway league for competition for Cycling racing business?

Redeye June 27, 2012 at 9:12 pm

The points system is crazy – it’s like a footballer’s previous goals being credited to his new team if he gets bought. Nobody would consider that sensible, so why is it accepted in cycling?

jkeltgv June 27, 2012 at 9:24 pm

why don’t the teams who scored the points keep 100% of the points? If you have a bad year you get relegated and someone from the level below comes up. It would mean a shake up of the way the world tour and pro-conti level races are organised so that all teams could be measured equally (when not taking part in the same races across the season) but at present I have an issue with Sky, Greenedge, Lay-o-pard etc starting from scratch with a load of cash buying up points to go straight to the top while @brismithy from Endura Racing works his way up the levels learning as he goes hoping one day to get a grand tour entry like NetApp did this year (who will surely go on from this to bigger things).

Buy a team and get a spot at the top table. “Sporting merit” indeed.

The Inner Ring June 27, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Several people are wondering why the team does not get 50 or even 100% of the points. I can see why.

But let’s imagine a team that keeps the points, it means the team gets 100% of the value of the points or put another way, all the results of the work. It’d be like working for an employer who takes credit for all your work.

Cycling is both a team and an individual sport so we need something that’s fair to both rider and team. Right now it’s a mess but the answer is probably harder than we think. The answer is to work through various scenarios and something the governing body should do. But I gather when it introduced the current system it did not do any planning like this.

Dan June 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm

“It’d be like working for an employer who takes credit for all your work.”

At my job I am paid a salary. If we have a good year I might get a bonus but the companies profits go to the share holders. So yes, my employer is taking credit for my work. If I come up with a great idea that gets patented, the company owns the patent. What’s wrong with that?

If a rider is desirable because he can produce results it shouldn’t matter whether his team keeps the points he earned from last season. Is Mark Cavendish valuable because he has a lot of points from last season or is he valuable because he can win the big races?

The only way that I could see this hurting a rider is if a rider is at the end of his contract and is seriously injured but has a lot of points. In the current system he would be more valuable because a team could buy him for the points. The flip side of that is young talent that has potential to win races but is new to the sport and doesn’t have many points.

The Inner Ring June 27, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Sport is often viewed different from ordinary work as it is very performance based. I see your point but within cycling the teams already have tight control over the sport and they often work in concert with the governing body and others to set wages.

I’d rather give the riders/workers some share for their hard work that reflects the value of the points.

Peter June 27, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I’m not necessarily a supporter of giving the teams 100% of the points, but I do think it solves some of the problems of the rider getting all the points. It *seems* to me that it is positive for both riders (leaders & otherwise):
– Teams have a bit more stability. They keep their points for at least a year (but based on the system implemented it could be more than a year). Riders benefit from this stability too.
– Top riders who ‘score’ the points for the team will retain most of their value, since normally it can be expected that they will also score points next season. Riders without points will be less unappealing for teams than they are right now, as the transfers that are made aren’t about the points a rider has, but only about the points a rider can help make for the team. A rider like Henderson (a top lead-out without points) is much more valuable now. He helps Greipel score points, but if Greipel leaves the points are not lost.
– Riders who score points in the season before they retire will still leave their legacy points at the team (which seems fair to me).

One scenario that I can think of where it might not be fair that a team keeps it’s points, is when all the star riders leave and no other big names are recruited. E.g. if the Schlecks, Cancellara, Fuglsang, etc all leave RSNT (not at all unlikely it seems), not much might be left.

Another tricky part is what to do with dopers’ points. Actually, doper’s points don’t exist, since individual rider’s don’t have points. So can a team keep those points? Personally, it does seem fair to me to punish a team for a doper (teams have responsibility in the fight against doping) and subtract the doper’s share in the team points (or possibly even a fixed amount of points). But this is getting a bit too hypothetical…

Touriste-Routier June 27, 2012 at 10:42 pm

The legal term (in the US) is “Work for Hire”; your work products belong to your employer. However your worth is the ability to produce work product, which you carry with you when you leave one employer for the other. You leave the intellectual property behind, but take your talent with you.

Parlaying that to cycling, the team keeps the points, but your new team invests in you because you can produce results and earn them points in the future.

The only problem here is that new teams would have zero points to qualify for the World Tour. Maybe this is how it should be, maybe not. Like I said earlier, the system has fatal flaws, and we are re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Rob June 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm

In most of the team sports the points go to the team. Football (Soccer) has been mentioned already, and it’s a nice analogy. Whatever points a team wins in the league stays with the team, and the individual goals count towards a player’s “market value”.

There is no need for point splitting, they can go to the team’s account just fine. The rider will always be associated with his/her wins and placings. That would also help to stabilise the teams a bit.

Bundle June 28, 2012 at 12:19 am

Let’s do away with the points and the rankings (leave them for a SuperPrestige kind of honour), and let’s do away with World Tour, Pro Conti and whatnot. Let organisers choose the teams they invite, let teams choose the races they race. That should be it.

ave June 28, 2012 at 12:26 am

Well, “sporting merit” might include fair play.
I hope JB get what he deserves for this. (and all the other stuff)

S June 30, 2012 at 3:59 am

Lifetime ban

BoboFett3 June 28, 2012 at 1:28 am

Okay, so it is likely that this was already answered or commented on, but I am being lazy as hell today, not read through everything, and possibly repeat things that have already been thoroughly discussed.
I got into a twitter conversation today and I thought that Jakob said he would be leaving for Saxo bank before he was left off the Tour roster. If that is true, even though it sucks for him, I feel it is totally okay for the team to not race him. Even so, if him saying he was leaving the team because he wasn’t riding the Grande Shindig, you can’t put that out there and then be shocked by the repercussions. UCI points aside, if you were walking around your office telling people you were going to leave for a rival company in a few months, how long would you be working there? Also, as someone who has competed in team sports at a the collegiate level, if one of my teammates told the media they were transferring to another school, while we were mid season, there is no way I would want to have anything to do with them for the rest of the season.

I also find the Jak and Nibbles reactions shockingly different. While it is true that their situations are different, I think its funny that there is quite a bit of backlash against Nibbles but a ton of support for Jak. At least amongst cycling people I follow on twitter.

Michal June 28, 2012 at 4:44 am

Wasn’t Jacob touted as best GC prospect for the Tour even before Andy got injured?

C Grade Cyclist June 28, 2012 at 5:54 am

There does need to be some form of ‘point-splitting’ betwen the individuals and teams.

As for equivalent scenarios with the current points system – imagine if promotion & relegation in the current football/soccer leagues did the same thing?

Say Manchester United’s key striker was bought by Aston Villa. So the standings are then recalculated at season’s end – all teh striker’s goals for Man U were removed, and re-credited to Aston Villa (based on each opponent), and a new ranking was then issued. Sounds ridiculous, right…

Anonymous June 28, 2012 at 6:03 am

The world tour should really be based the overall team rankings. The UCI should try something like the constructors championship held within Formula 1. But in this case teams gather points throughout the season that they carry over into the next so that if they do lose key riders they can still hold their license and get into races. Riders still get their own points that should help determine their value so far as contracts are concerned. Perhaps riders who are exceptional are able to also carry team points (GC guys big sprinters, etc)? But if teams can’t develop their riders and get results then they risk falling out of the WT. This way it puts the onus on the team to support a rider throughout the year, but its still up to the rider to show his value. It also provides an impetus for teams to keep riders on. And teams can then guarantee to sponsors their status, on way or another, for the following season. This system also takes care of the super domestique types who are immensely valuable but perhaps don’t accrue as many points under the current system–since teams don’t have to base their decisions on points but on demonstrated performance be it from points or by reputation.

There, I think fixed it. Some flaws for sure, but its better than the current system.

trounder June 28, 2012 at 11:48 pm

The license (or the race organizer’s eligibility criteria) is key for teams. Teams pay salaries to attract talent that will ensure a license, and the license brings sponsorship. Until riders control the sponsorship game completely and bring their own hired guns to an event, then the team sponsorship structure will remain valid. Therefore, we will continue to see “teams” disintegrate in the blink of an eye as talent moves around and sponsors retreat.

I tend to agree with Vaughters that a license to race the big races, which is theoretically the World Tour, should be given to teams for more than one year so long as they meet certain criteria. A points system for teams aligned with a longer term value horizon (3 years, 6 years?) may help stabilize the sport and keep teams from suffering some of the drama exemplified by this scenario.

I’m throwing these two topics (rider/team points and duration of team eligibility) together because I think it gets to the heart of the issue. A team is trying to limit its losses this year and not benefit a competitor next year. Why? So they have a chance to stay in the hunt for the annual team license qualifying criteria and remain viable next year to the sponsors that pay everyone’s bills. If that was not a concern every year for every team, then perhaps Fuglsang would ride the rest of the season and ideally add value to his current team’s sponsors by winning, or helping them win more races. And perhaps INRNG could address a whole new category of topics on this blog…!

Gillis June 28, 2012 at 6:03 am

The world tour should really be based the overall team rankings. The UCI should try something like the constructors championship held within Formula 1. But in this case teams gather points throughout the season that they carry over into the next so that if they do lose key riders they can still hold their license and get into races. Riders still get their own points that should help determine their value so far as contracts are concerned. Perhaps riders who are exceptional are able to also carry team points (GC guys big sprinters, etc)? But if teams can’t develop their riders and get results then they risk falling out of the WT. This way it puts the onus on the team to support a rider throughout the year, but its still up to the rider to show his value. It also provides an impetus for teams to keep riders on. And teams can then guarantee to sponsors their status, on way or another, for the following season. This system also takes care of the super domestique types who are immensely valuable but perhaps don’t accrue as many points under the current system–since teams don’t have to base their decisions on points but on demonstrated performance be it from points or by reputation.

There, I think fixed it. Some flaws for sure, but its better than the current system.

Another Dave June 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm

The way I see it the tweets are twits

Gingerflash June 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm

If Fuglslang had kept his trap shut and hadn’t complained about his team, then this wouldn’t have happened. I find it pretty hard to feel sorry for him.

If I tell my employer that I’m going and start slagging them off to anyone that’ll listen, I’d expect to be frozen out of any new work, particularly if it would be to the advantage of my next employer.

The points sytem may be flawed but let’s not feel too sorry for Fuglslang. He’s brought this on himself.

He thinks that a Tour of Lux win means he ought to be the Tour leader. Seems deluded.

OJT June 28, 2012 at 9:44 pm

My two pennies: move the negotiation period. A partial solution.

One thing the UCI could do now – for 2013 onwards – would be to move the contract negotiation period back so that it is outside the main road racing season.

It could START on 20 October or even later, not end on 20 October. There are several key races during the current contract window; Lombardy & the Vuelta being the most obvious, plus the UCI’s two favourite Chinese events. Even if Fuglsang and other riders such as Nibali had kept quiet now, they would still run the risk of being stopped from attending those late season races because they have to have contracts in place before those races have been held.

One thing the UCI can’t stop is gossip. There are so many rumours flying around Nibali and Fuglsang you have to wonder just where they start. The agents? The riders themselves? The team? Playing these games in public invariably ends in tears.

OJT June 28, 2012 at 9:59 pm

And I’d also say that football has a rule which could help here. ‘Tapping Up’ players (aka player tampering in America) is forbidden by the English FA. Club A must seek permission of Club B if they are interested in a Club B player and want to approach him. So Club A can’t ‘tap up’ the player. In cycling you would tweak the rule to say approaches are acceptable during the end of season contract negotiation period.

NB tapping up still happens in football despite the rule but everyone concerned knows they have to be very very careful. In the past, high profile players and agents have been caught and punished.

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