Are your socks the right length? The UCI used to regulate sock length but the rule vanished. Now it’s back for 2019 and the handy image above sets out the maximum permitted length in graphic terms rather than the dry text of UCI Rule 1.3.033 bis. We’ll see if commissaires are running after riders with tape measures…
Now to people needing to pull their socks up. Aqua Blue‘s riders are waiting for their wages, in the wake of the team’s demise the riders are claiming the bank guarantee posted with the UCI for just this purpose. When there are stories of unpaid wages – Astana’s troubles went public earlier this year – the guarantee isn’t an overdraft to dip in and out. Instead there’s admin and paperwork involved meaning the money can take time to release. It’s not helped by the odd communications from the team. There’s even talk of suing riders who speak out, as if the team management still have money to fund legal action when there are delays to pay the wages but it’s surely impossible to imagine anything actually going to court.
Late or on time, a stat for you: the average pro salary for men’s cycling is about 450,000 Swiss francs, about US$440,000 or €400,000. It’s not made public but this number is derived from the amount listed inside the UCI accounts as held in reserve for the bank guarantees for all the teams, World Tour and Pro Continental, which amounts to just short of 1,000 riders and treat this as a back of the envelope number. Each team has to set aside one quarter of their rider wage bill but there are some caveats, for example the amount was that held on 31 December 2017. There’s not much meaning to the number, the wage distribution is very heavily skewed by a few riders at the top, sport is a winner-takes-all domain where those who win the biggest races get the greatest rewards so chances are if you bump into a pro they’re not on this but it’s the mean average. For comparison back in 2013 the mean average UCI World Tour salary was €320,000 and the median salary was €200,000.
Voici l’identité des 12 coureurs de la Conti Groupama-FDJ pour la saison 2019 ⤵ pic.twitter.com/DwjH16Qijk
— Équipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ (@GroupamaFDJ) November 12, 2018
Now to smaller pay deals and Groupama-FDJ have launched a development team and it’ll have UCI Continental status for next year. It’s got a budget of €1.2 million and all riders will be salaried – there’s no UCI minimum for the Conti teams but in France they’re classified as professionals and have to be salaried and insured by their employer (which isn’t the case in other countries). They’ll also attend some form of education or ongoing education while housed near the squad’s HQ in Besançon, a town in eastern France. It’s similar to Ag2r La Mondiale’s long-established feeder team in Chambéry and the new UCI reforms for 2020 look likely to embed the idea of a development teams further. To borrow management jargon it makes pro teams more vertical in that they don’t have to scour the U23 scene for talented locals as much but can instead recruit direct from their feeder teams; and use the feeder teams to recruit possible talents.
Will FDJ’s money stay on tap? Just as Team Sky’s parent sponsor has changed ownership with Comcast’s takeover of the UK broadcaster, now FDJ, the French state lottery, is being prepared for sale by the French government with the FDJ privatisation expected for next year. It’s likely the sponsorship, now more than 20 years old, stays for the short to medium term but as ever a change of owners can bring new spending priorities.
FDJ had a decent start to their sponsorship, winning Paris-Roubaix with Fred Guesdon in their inaugural year of 1997. Two years later Andrea Tafi won Paris-Roubaix and now he wants to race it again, aged 52. If he starts he could finish if everything goes his way but probably won’t feature in the race. But how to start? He told Italy’s RAI TV that he was in talks with a World Tour team which seems odd because there’s only seven riders on the start line and so little room for a guest rider: few squads take to the start of Paris-Roubaix without ambition. But today’s Gazzetta Dello Sport reports Dimension Data could be the team. There’s a connection as the team has a base in Italy near Tafi’s home and a glance at their roster for 2019 suggests they’re not going to have a strong team for the day but all the same hiring Tafi for the day, or the spring, is a good way of signalling this to the world.
Staying with cobbles, the Arenberg forest is special to Paris-Roubaix. If the cobbles are legendary, it’s also the gaps between them that make riding across them so hard, wheels bounce and there can be vegetation and moss which can be slippery. Now this is being fixed reports local newspaper La Voix du Nord, instead of the annual weedkiller spray and then a roadsweeper, the local authorities are blasting the gaps with a high pressure jet to clear out debris and will soon move to cement the joints between them. It should make them marginally safer but perhaps the real story is how the race and its geography is becoming part of the region’s heritage, something to spend money on and preserve.