Developing Development Teams

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Pavel Sivakov - Col Saint Pantaleon, Aosta

BMC Racing have decided to pull the plug on their development team. In a statement team said a causal factor was their development of riders who only go and sign for other teams.

“Unlike prior years, the athletes today are for the most part being managed by rider agents. These rider agents then propose these athletes to other teams who may or may not invest in such a program. In essence, we are now developing athletes at a cost for both our team and other teams… …The UCI offers no protection to development teams and no regulations exist that protect their investment or the transfer of riders from team to team.”

That’s the quote attributed to Jim Ochowicz in the BMC press release. Over at this blog there are two ways to see this…

First let’s understand Ochowicz’s position, that his team is spending good money on developing riders only to see them sign for another team. This means all the costs fall on BMC only for the big gains to be enjoyed by a rival team. To illustrate this, look at the case of Pavel Sivakov (pictured in yellow), the Russian rider who has lived in France all his life and who has won the Ronde de l’Isard, the U23 Giro and the Giro della Valle d’Aosta, three of the four most important and difficult amateur stage races along with the Tour de l’Avenir. Sivakov has been part of BMC’s development program but the talk is he has signed for Team Sky. In light of this closing the development team seems rational, why assume all the development costs only for others to get the benefits? It’s like planting crops only to see another farmer come and take the harvest.

Second, the alternative is that U23 riders are not livestock purchased by the development team, the feeder squad and its parent pro team have no hold over the U23 rider, no more than an office intern must spend the next two years working at the same firm on graduation. If another employer is able to offer better terms then it’s a basic right to be able to go elsewhere. Also if there are costs, the time spent on development brings particular benefits to the development team. For example they’ve gained invaluable insight into their U23 riders, not just their training data and other metrics but also they’ll know their character, values and more. So the development team, and its parent team in the World Tour, knows more than anyone else just how much the rider is worth.

These are two views, both seem reasonable and there are more points to take. But whatever your take one thing everyone can agree on is that development matters. Currently cycling’s amateur U23 scene is a very mixed area to put it mildly with semi-pro teams for some and village clubs for others and a mixed calendar where

Pro teams can lament the lack of UCI rules in this area but this hasn’t stopped them from running these teams over the years within these rules… and poaching from other teams. Ochowicz himself hired Taylor Phinney on a substantial six figure salary out of Trek-Livestrong’s development programme; Laurens De Plus rode for Lotto-Soudal’s U23 programme but turned pro with arch rivals Quick Step in 2016; and Florian Sénéchal was supposed to do another year with Quick Step’s development team but jumped at the chance to turn pro with Cofidis, this didn’t seem to burn any bridges though as he’s signing with the Belgian team for 2018.

Development teams do incur significant costs (training camps, fuel, vehicles and often, but not always, a modest salary) but if a rider turns pro they get nothing back. In other sports it’s different, for example FIFA has a formula designed to repay training costs incurred by clubs should a player go on to bigger things but this is based on transfer fees when players are traded, something that is exceptional in cycling rather than the norm. Cycling could do something similar though upon signature of a neo-pro contract. But it’s working out how and how much that is the hard part, for example how much is an U23 team responsible for discovering talent and developing it, how much value are they adding? Make the payment high and you set up all sort of incentives in the U23 ranks that can have bad effects, the sporting equivalent of cows being fattened for market as young riders are primed for the pro ranks or rather primed for the signature of a neo-pro contract only to burn out or worse soon after thanks to a pushy amateur team desperate to get that contract fee. Similarly make a neo-pro more expensive still and maybe some teams just recruit existing pros instead? Where this can work is the idea that a good development squad has added something and that a neo-pro fee back to the development club is worth it because of the quality they’re recruiting, they know they’re getting a year’s worth of power data files, someone who has spent a season learning team work and tactics and more.

But for now teams get all this free. In an article for Pro Cycling magazine in January 2014, the manager of the CC Etupes cycling club in eastern France Jérôme Gannat laments that he’s had Warren Barguil, Thibaut Pinot, Adam Yates (pictured), Kenny Elissonde, Alexis Vuillermoz and more in his U23 team but this conveyor belt gets no funding from the pro teams only too happy to cherry-pick the best of his riders. Gannat is happy here, the club partly exists to send riders onwards and upwards and takes great pride from this and in turn this notoriety means it can attract more promising U23 riders. But it has bills to meet and Gannat wrote that after Skil-Shimano signed Barguil the club was able to buy some wheels off the Dutch team at a discount, that’s as far as the help went. Of course everyone wants more money but Gannat’s case seems valid.

Also development doesn’t stop once a rider signs a pro contract. Take the other reported signing of Team Sky, the Colombian Egan Bernal who has been with Androni Giocattoli. Should Gianni Savio get a finder’s fee for scouting him? Presumably Savio’s found an angle here already but it illustrates how the lower pro ranks could be rewarded for bringing on other riders. Similarly maybe the likes of Sport Vlaanderen (former Topsport) and Bardiani-CSF could ask for a reward for bringing on the likes of Oliver Naesen, Thomas De Gendt, Sonny Colbrelli and Gianluca Brambilla although arguably they got their publicity along the way too.

This route is the one chosen by Axeon-Hagens Berman, the US team that has supplied more neo-pros to the World Tour than any other development outfit with the news that it wants to move up to the Pro Continental level for 2018. This is partly a response to the UCI regulation and calendar, namely to get a shot at riding the Tour of California but means its riders will get access to more races and all their squad will by definition become professionals. There will be a subtle difference in that riders are going to be salaried and expected to deliver matching results and we will see if their recruitment changes, whether they hire one or two veterans to pass on experience.

Finally development is not just taking riders and throwing them into the big U23 races in Europe and seeing what happens. There is off-the-bike work to be done too. British Cycling’s academy under Rod Ellingworth has insisted on discipline like keeping their apartments clean and washing team vehicles as well as language lessons, Ag2r La Mondiale’s feeder squad Chambéry Cyclisme Formation (Bardet, Latour… BMC’s Silvan Dillier) only takes riders on the condition they study when they’re not riding, whether a technical course or a university degree. Here the team doesn’t gain much but certainly the rider does.

Conclusion
BMC Racing are pulling the plug on their development team citing the lack of UCI rules and how other teams can poach their best riders. A cynic might say these rules existed when the team was created so it’s not like they should be surprised. But Ochowicz’s point is rational and echoed by many others. Some kind of development fee payment could be a good idea as it would reward structures that develop young riders and of course a team recruiting from its own feeder squad would save this: a reward for funding their own system. This sounds like one of those classic problems where a solution can benefit everyone from rider to U23 team to pro squad if it could be carefully implemented.

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Sam G August 15, 2017 at 10:41 am

If every WT team was made to have a U23 team like premier league teams in football, then similarly they could promote riders for some WT races to try them out. This would result in all teams sharing the risk of rivals poaching young riders and could potentially lead to the development of a primitive transfer market. Teams could then run the U23’s as a business to recoup costs or make profit and develop talent. This is how football runs, with Chelsea as a prime example of running a youth set up as a business, only taking the very best into the first team squad.

Jef August 15, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Chelsea’s youth setup may be instructive of what could happen but I don’t think many fans would like to see it replicated in cycling. They hoard youth players and loan them out to partnership clubs to put them in the shop window but almost none of them have made it to the first team squad since Terry did and it’s often said that their careers are hindered rather than helped.

Morten Reippuert August 15, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Please dont overload cycling with comercial only perspective – it will just be and indifferent as anyh other entertainment freak show. At least pro cycling is 100% profesional with full autonomy unlike the most borring thing in the entore world: soccor.

Anoldfan August 17, 2017 at 9:44 am

Yep the World’s most boring game. 🙂

David August 16, 2017 at 8:20 am

You can mandate having a feeder team, but it’s hard to see how you mandate putting the necessary effort and resources into it to make it a worthwhile enterprise if the team isn’t interested in it. Seems like you’d be better off having a budget-based levy on pro teams, with that money being ring-fenced for funding young rider development (supporting teams that have young riders that go into pro ranks, national development programs, etc.).

BenW August 15, 2017 at 11:04 am

Interesting that Ochowicz mentions rider agents. Is this a new development, brought on by those in football?

The Inner Ring August 15, 2017 at 11:13 am

Hard to say, there don’t seem to be many more agents around. Maybe what has changed is the size of salaries for some neo-pros… even if a common tactic for an agent is to promise to work for free on the first contract in order to get the rider on board with them for the rest of their career.

Andy W August 15, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Well, it’s not a factor limited solely to sport.

In professional employment, it’s not uncommon that if an employee is sent on expensive training courses or sponsored to obtain a professional qualification, then they are contracted to pay-back the cost to their employer if they subsequently leave to join a competitor – eg 100% of the cost if they leave inside one year, 50% in two years, 25% in three.

You can see the justification for the employer, they don’t want to spend a fortune on employee training or development oinly to see them promptly leave, but it’s not popular with employees, you feel trapped
economically.

Should development riders or neo-pros have the same sort of restriction ?
Or should the new team employing them have to pay some sort of severance fee to the team losing them ?
– wouldn’t it have the same effect ? Rather than meaning the rider would have to pay a fee directly themselves, wouldn’t this simply mean that the new team would pay them a lower salary ?

Ecky Thump August 15, 2017 at 5:54 pm

The article linked shows some interesting comparisons where repayment costs can be deemed as penalties in some situations –

http://www.personneltoday.com/hr/repayment-clauses-payback-time/

But this particular situation looks more complicated – a development rider may only have a contract whilst he’s in the development team, You could not then force the rider to sign for the parent team against their wishes surely?
On completion of the riders’ development contract, the rider becomes a free agent, so to speak.
Of course it would be nice if the parent team offered a neo-pro contract, but if a better offer came from elsewhere, that’s too bad.
And, equally, the parent team could offer no contract to the development rider – professional sport is littered with young ‘cast-offs’ who have failed to make the next steep up.
So, it works both ways?

Morten Reippuert August 15, 2017 at 8:21 pm

In Maggie Thatcher/ Therease Mays’s emplyee hating world: it may hold truth. On continatel europe: no way.

Anand August 15, 2017 at 12:13 pm

I would like to mention conti Norwegian outfit Joker in this context.

They have produced a whole lot of pro-riders (Kristoff, EBH the most visible), and they have no qualms as to what they are doing. They want Norwegian riders out into pro outfits, and they are doing a helluva job at it. Next year as many as 20 norsemen might be at proconti or WT, before the norm was 0-3 guys.

I might be biased as a Norweger, but the Joker head of affairs and master tactician is a Belgian (Gino Van Oudenhove)!

Maybe a bit off-topic since you are mostly talking feeder teams, but it just goes to show that development teams can have a place in the cycling world without being dramatic about it, which I think is the point you are making.

One Man Grupetto August 15, 2017 at 12:52 pm

A fascinating article and I think it’s entirely possible to have support for both the views expressed here.

Savio’s angle is that he got in very early and signed Bernal last September largely on the strength of his VO2 tests. This was when the only offers that Bernal had were from mountain bike teams and when he’d ridden only a few races on the road. (Source – Cyclingtips). Somehow he got Bernal inked to a four-year contract and you’d have to imagine that there is some sort of buy-out clause. He may get lampooned for his image and some of his business practices may be a bit sharp but Savio is no idiot.

Interesting that Joker gets mentioned above in the comments re:development given that Kristoffer Halvorsen chose to stay with them this year year despite winning U23 World Champs in Qatar as he thought that he would benefit from another year there. Sadly, for anyone who likes to see young talent go to different WT teams, he seems to be off to Sky despite Lotto NL Jumbo signing his lead-out man Jansen last year as part of an attempt to lure him.

Anand August 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm

As you, I really hope that it’s not true that he goes to Sky. In my mind something like Giant would be perfect for him. The Sky rumours might have something to do with Gabba (Gabriel Rasch)being trainer/DS there though, very respected back home both for his appearance and ethics (which very much clashes with all rumours surrounding Team Sky, but let’s not go there..).
But at the same time, Sky seems to be building a bit more on youth, than signing big names this year?

J Evans August 15, 2017 at 1:22 pm

‘Currently cycling’s amateur U23 scene is a very mixed area to put it mildly with semi-pro teams for some and village clubs for others and a mixed calendar where’ – missing text?

J Evans August 15, 2017 at 1:38 pm

It’s a complex issue – as the pros and cons the article states show – but for me there’s one overriding factor: people are not commodities to be bought and sold.
The UCI could make it mandatory for all WT teams to have development teams and that transfer salaries are not allowed – then it’s the same for all. Of course, it would be very difficult to ensure that the WT teams produced actual, working development teams and not just whatever they could get away with cheaply.
Also, look at the effect of transfer fees have had on football – moneyball. Is that really what one would want for cycling?
My girlfriend’s an international law academic and says that the ‘ownership’ of riders/players flouts international law and could be brought down by any serious challenge – it’s just that people have agreed to work within that system.
Think of your own job – if you are employed by someone else – everyone can hand in their request to leave and working a contracted notice period. Would you consider it fair if that were not the case? Andy W mentions such scenarios and it seems evident that such a restriction on people’s freedom is unethical. These are just the risks businesses take. But in our society the needs – more like ‘wants’ – of business are almost always favoured over the rights of people.

Anand August 15, 2017 at 3:42 pm

I think your girlfriend is spot on.
The nature of work contracts are in fact a little challenged type of contracts under both domestic and international laws. It is no doubt that many of us have signed work contracts that are in violation of more general laws (for instance, I have a “silent clause” as manager for a medium business which is in direct conflict with Norwegian and European/international general laws about freedom of speech). The same I wager, applies to cycling and for that matter any other sport.
This also applies to for instance doping cases, which has been discussed here before.

As you mention Moneyball (please cycling, don’t go there – for all your flaws, you are better than that), it should be mentioned that there is a prime example of how contracts have been treated legally and seemingly the players won through the Bosman verdict. However, the Bosman verdict has now turned into a crowbar for overpayed babies to threaten teams to sell them (a la Neymar, Costa).

As always a thought-provoking article, and one that has no clear answer – because the act of altering the status quo will have unforeseen consequenses down the line.

CA August 15, 2017 at 7:11 pm

EXACTLY!

Your girlfriend is spot on, especially if the young riders are un-paid amateurs who merely receive the use of a bike and have some cost reimbursements. If they don’t have a payment contract with you, then they can leave at anytime.

Business owners need to have realistic expectations. If they started the development squad thinking that all top talent they help develop would go to their world tour team for a reduced salary they are fools. A talented young rider expects to be paid once they are ready to be a pro. Obviously, if you were good to them as an amateur and they like you they might favour signing with you. But they still will want a competitive salary. Secondly, they don’t owe you squat, all they owe you is a “thank you” at the end and consideration for the next contract.

Further, any team sponsor who starts a feeder team with the notion they are going to break even on all signings are even bigger fools. World Tour teams get better access to their feeder team riders as a bonus to running the team, but there’s no expectation they will ever see reimbursement for their development expenses (and let’s stop using the word “investment” because investment implies equity that can be reimbursed, these expenses are purely expenses that you’ll never recover).

Mark H August 16, 2017 at 6:03 am

Indeed, interesting that you should mention this, and Anand mentions Costa, the article below covers this subject well (even if you hate football).

“The Chelsea striker has raised some profound issues about transfer fees and freedom of movement that have troubled even the biggest clubs for some time”
https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/aug/14/diego-costa-chelsea-transfer-atletico-madrid

BenW August 16, 2017 at 10:42 am

Football is slightly different though, due to there being transfer fees and players therefore having a value whilst they’re under contract. Costa wants to go to Atletico Madrid but they won’t pay what Chelsea have decided he’s worth. It has always struck me as interesting how rare it is for a player to turn down a move in these situations – there must be cases of players backed into corners who feel they can’t not make a move even if they don’t want to. Despite the huge amounts of money they earn, still feeling as though they “can’t afford not to”.

Mark H August 16, 2017 at 11:43 am

Agreed.
I think it would be very difficult to introduce the concept of transfer fees and these types of binding contracts into any business (sport or otherwise) where they don’t already exist. Football is clearly treated as a special case at the moment, as are most sports in the US.

These labour practices would be viewed as pretty unfair in any other area so I can’t imagine a sport being able to introduce them where they aren’t already current practice (at least not in the EU where workers right are well protected).

As for trying to understand the mind-set of the average Premier League Football – good luck 🙂

Dan August 15, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Would be very interested to see this in a timeline;
Sivakov’s wins overlaid with BMCs and SKYs offers of contracts.

Tovarishch August 16, 2017 at 10:44 pm

Are you suggesting that World Tour teams rely on ProCyclingStats to make their recruiting decisions? I very much doubt it.

Dan August 17, 2017 at 2:30 pm

No no… More that BMC surely knew what was about to happen as they have all his data and see his race craft first hand.
He get his first win… Is there an offer?
Second win… Better get an offer in as other people will be sniffing around.
Third win… Are BMC still debating what to do?
Sky offer a contract.
BMC unhappy.

jollygoodvelo August 15, 2017 at 3:12 pm

It’s a tricky problem indeed – transfer fees are very much a double edged sword; most notably because it means the richer teams always get the riders they want, and smaller teams get the scraps (or at least, the later developers, riders in need of further coaching, etc).

What if a WT or Pro-Conti team signing a young rider – U23, maybe even U25? – were forced to pay the ‘selling’ team a fee based on (perhaps using a multiplier) the prize money earned by that rider over the previous year? Same fee no matter which team is paying it. That way the ‘big’ teams will only buy riders they will actually use instead of stockpiling young talent. It might still lead to ‘poorer’ development squads pushing their riders to burnout in order to get that pro contract, but a rider can only deliver what they have and surely the best young riders are pushing themselves anyway?

Touriste-Routier August 15, 2017 at 3:51 pm

Much of this is over complicating things.

Consider where does development start and where does it end? Not easy questions to answer.

If the U23 teams were viable in and of themselves, then this isn’t an issue; developing riders is their raison d’etre.

If they are supported by a WT or PC team, then perhaps the teams can place a matching rights clause in the U23 riders devo contract, giving them the opportunity to move the rider up, thereby protecting their investment, if another team makes a formal offer. If the team passes, it is their own fault if the rider goes to another organization.

Othersteve August 15, 2017 at 8:02 pm

This sounds like NHL hockey contracts with drafted juniors?

We pay you, you play for us and we own you till someone pays your contract out from under us, or when contract is over!
Does make contractual sense, first rights of refusal till say age 25.
and you can trade them, albeit another can of worms perhaps.

Touriste-Routier August 16, 2017 at 2:37 pm

I understand what you are saying, but the devil is in the details. Perhaps the matching rights would be limited to a first pro contract, which rarely exceed 2 years. No one is forcing the U23 riders to sign a contract that includes such a clause, but I would guess that most U23 riders would appreciate having a known path to the higher levels, and would jump at the opportunity. It is already a hope and selling point of signing with a given devo team that has a relationship with a WT or PC team.

CA August 16, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Interesting idea but as Touriste-Rider says, the devil is in the details. Some of the specific details of this concept would be prohibitive to making it happen.

For example, the legal fees alone to draft the required transfer fee contracts for all affected jurisdictions would be massive. The contracts would have to be legally binding for ALL jurisdictions that World Tour, feeder and other development teams are in. If you look at all of the potential jurisdiction combinations, it is a massive web of legal connections and would result in a legal bill easily exceeding 5-6 digits. Then, who is going to pay this legal bill? Then, who will enforce this system? For example, the UAE team can easily refuse to pay the fee until enforced by a court, but who will pay the UAE legal fee to enforce the contract? It would fall on the feeder team to pay this legal bill which would easily exceed the transfer fee.

NHL and junior hockey contracts exist in a completely different legal/financial environment. And even that system is enforced by annual legal counsel fees. But at least the Canadian and US junior hockey teams have a revenue stream. They sell tickets to every single game – each game could easily gross $45,000 revenue, which might exceed the annual budget of an amateur cycling team!

Anand August 17, 2017 at 12:17 am

You are right of course, in the US some of the “amateur” sports are really big in it’s own right and can pay for it’s own development. In american football the Rosebowl (I think that’s the Superbowl of colleges, no?) is like top five-ten of sporting events every year in that country (I just saw the OJ Simpson documentary lol, that run he did with USC before going pro was just insane even if I don’t like american football at all).

And also to Touriste-Routier and others in this thread, I see that I have stolen some of your points in my posts in a way without giving due credit, sorry.

Shawn August 15, 2017 at 6:01 pm

Feeder programs, whether in sport or business, are work intensive to run. Identification of talent is but a small step. Those managing the program need to convince the talented recruits that the parent team/company is the best place for their development and future happiness. This begins as soon as they come in and all the way to when they sign the ‘pro-contract’. I understand why BMC would balk at that investment of energy to do it right. Maybe they think it’s more cost effective to sign neo-pros developed by others but they shouldn’t whine about others poaching their prospects. That is their failure to do the job of running a feeder well.

CA August 15, 2017 at 7:03 pm

EXACTLY! I totally agree.

Jim Ocho is a bit of a whiner in general, and oversimplifies an issue in order to make his point. There is probably a lot more behind the issue why his prospect got poached.

Did Ocho offer the guy a contract? And was the contract fair? Did the rider reject a contract from BMC? Further, was BMC paying the rider while on the development team? Was he under contract? etc.

CA August 15, 2017 at 6:46 pm

Gannat can cry me a river, he’s not putting up the funds of a ProTour team so obviously a good rider will bounce as soon as they can get a ProTour contract.

If Gannat himself had a ProTour team AND a development squad, then he could complain, but as it stands he has zero basis to complain. Is he paying his riders? Gannat obviously has money to fund an expensive hobby (or use it to get some advertising, or whatnot), but he’s not putting in (or raising) enough cash to give his top talent a salary commensurate with their riding ability.

CA August 15, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Another point, and Mr. Inrng hinted at this in his article:

~ set a transfer fee and ProTour teams will a) look to hire riders from pool or unsigned veterans, b) give their own feeder team riders added incentives to not go to other pro teams, c) will reduce overall salaries of neo-pros.
~ Point C is significant because we’re already crying out how base salaries are very low in cycling. Now, to make a mandatory fee (let’s say $20,000) payable to a team’s U23/amateur team will mean the pro teams will reduce what they offer as a base salary by approximately $20,000. This will only hurt the riders and give their initial benefactors an extra $20,000 in their pockets.
~ the men/women (mostly men) who set up feeder teams in cycling usually do so because they love the sport and are well off enough to fund or find the funding. Therefore, they don’t really need the money and they spend the money because of a love of the sport. Or, they own a cycle store and have a feeder team as part of an advertising program/strategy. Either way, they are well off business people and the effect of this will be to reduce the initial salary of the young rider, therefore making a real-world career that much more attractive/stable.

We already have a problem of attracting top athletes to become cyclists, and by giving more money to the rich benefactors of this sport will only hurt our rider talent pool. Besides, do the majority of these benefactors start cycling teams with the goal of breaking even? I very much doubt it!

nsb August 15, 2017 at 9:30 pm

Cycling is far behind soccer. At least an era. Its structures are medieval. No fees for taking riders, no tv share from TDF.

Vitus August 16, 2017 at 3:22 am

And that’s okay. Nobody need the madness of football and the neymarisation of any other sport.

DaveS August 16, 2017 at 8:43 am

Complex problem indeed. It seems to me it is always about cost in Pro cycling, and the failure to have generated a successful business model within the sport. Sadly, I have no answers.
Certainly within my own industry, trainees have to contact to remain with the organisation for 2 years after qualifying, but this is easier to manage as there is a rigorous qualifying procedure which the candidate either passes our fails. Not at all the case for an athlete.
Not simple . . .

paul August 16, 2017 at 9:24 am

Is the feeder model of the great clubs like the Acbb finished?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletic_Club_de_Boulogne-Billancourt

Anand August 16, 2017 at 12:50 pm

And just to throw more wood into the fire:

Is the largest part of the development done in an U23 team, or was it done before that even?

I’m sorry to bang on about Norway (it’s what I know naturally most about), but look at Karsten Warholm that at the unripe age of 21 just won 400m hurdles WC in London. There is no doubt the largest part of his development was done at kids and junior level (or even mostly at birth?).

Should his home amateur club Dimna then be compensated?

I don’t think so. At some point there should be drawn a line from where stuff is amateur/goodwill based by parents and volunteer work towards some kind of future in hopefully pro-ranks. Any system other than that will be quite sheit (I’m a poet and didn’t know it).

Think of yourself, I don’t think many of us commenting here looked like world-class athletes when we were 10. But it’s no doubt also that a lot of people gave a lot of time to train hopeless people like me, and I can’t thank them enough for it!

Some commentators are likely americans since they look to NHL and so on. A draft system like in Basket, Baseball and NHL aren’t that daft and could work well in cycling.

But again, there is not one answer that is a solution. I actually think things work quite ok in the cycling world unlike many other worlds of sport. After the doping aftermath, I really like cycling much more now than before. It’s special with all it’s flaws, but so entertaining. Problems often come from fans with way higher expectations than can be defended. This season and last have been really good, and if you look to U23 races and womens racing which is the most entertaining of all, it’s nice to be a cycling fan these days! (Televise more U23 and Womens! if you are jaded by WT men, look at L’Avenir, Alsace, smaller french/dutch/belgian races where U23 guys have a shot, the fabulous womens races like Britain, Vårgarda and LToN, it’s so fresh and exciting, racing at it’s best).

Thanks again to the blogger and the commentators for a nice level of discussion, unlike most other sites.

CA August 16, 2017 at 4:18 pm

I agree with a lot of points you made. Especially it is up to the fan/development team to have realistic expectations.

Clearly cycling is relatively complicated sport and even though there is not a tonne of money for athletes/teams/etc. the sport itself works relatively well. I mean, every year there will be a lot of races and a lot of men/women will race really fast. Sure, a bunch of races come and go, but the main ones will continue on.

Overall, cycling is a much much more interesting sport than many North American ones (IMHO), but it has many aspects that make it hard to insert and enforce specific systems (such as a transfer fee or draft).

I also agree that development squads can’t expect to be compensated for developing young athletes – this sport will always have to rely on a certain level of patronage and goodwill from local clubs, bike stores, etc. in order to help develop young kids. It is just too complicated to enforce these systems.

From a pragmatic standpoint, there are way too many fiscal jurisdictions to enforce a transfer fee system – specifically the UCI would have to draw up binding contracts between all World Tour teams and all Pro-Conti, Continental and amateur teams. These would have to be from each World Tour team’s local jurisdiction – think about how many jurisdictions the World Tour teams include (Euro, Swiss, UAE, Qatar, Kazak, USA, etc.) and then how many Pro-Conti/Conti/Amateur jurisdictions there are… Then what if the team from UAE says I’m not paying the transfer fee? The legal bill to enforce the fee in the United Arab Emirates would far outweigh the fee itself (and you can guarantee the UAE team isn’t paying that bill, it would be the French/German/American/Canadian/etc. amateur team that is footing the bill). You can begin to see that this would be way beyond the scope of the UCI to set-up.

Ruby August 17, 2017 at 1:22 pm

The UCI could raise a “development fund” from each WT team as a fixed percentage of the amount it holds in escrow from each team to protect the riders salaries in case of team collapse.

When an amateur signs from a development team to a proteam the development team gets paid a fixed amount from this fund (e.g $10k for proconti and $20k for WT team).

Thus the amount a team pays into the development fund is proportional to the amount they pay in salaries and the development teams will receive some payback for their work.

Jonny August 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm

I agree that something like this could be done, but I can already hear people with the counter arguments:
– ‘So you want to make it more expensive for new WT teams to form? Cycling needs more investment, don’t put potential investors off.’

– The value of developing a superstar is very different to the value of developing a domestique, but under a fixed payments this would not be taken in to account.

Just some food for thought.

Sam m August 18, 2017 at 5:41 am

Put simply, cycling still doesn’t get it. Set up like American football and preserve the investment, build value and take the control from the UCI. Byproduct- more interest from fans.

Jonny August 18, 2017 at 11:56 am

The first thing that I worry about when I see this story is that BMC aren’t going to keep running a development team because they aren’t planning to be around in five years. Maybe I’m off-base, I’m not sure what the long-term status of BMC is.

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