Will Joaquim Rodriguez Stay or Go?

Joaquim Rodriguez new team

…and where could he go?

With the Katusha team struggling for a licence Joaquim Rodriguez and his agent Angel Edo have been shopping around for a new team. Rodriguez agreed new terms with the Russian team at the end of last season but these were based on the premise of riding in World Tour. He has stated his prime target for 2013 is the Tour de France.

Rider contracts are like collarbones, they’re easily broken in the right circumstances. And Katusha not being a registered UCI team can mean a clean break clause. So will Rodriguez go and if so, where can he land?

Now if transfer gossip is too speculative for you then don’t be put off as the rest of the text below helps explains the mechanics of any inter-season transfer.

The first question is whether he will change teams ahead of any CAS appeal. The answer according to the Spanish media (eg El Periodico) seems to be a firm and he’s already lining up a deal to move but is being blocked until Katusha and the UCI agree to his release. Right now Katusha are trying to get a temporary status to ride the Tour de San Luis and he’s on standby duty.

It’s not a good time to change teams as most squads are full. Team size is capped:

2.15.110 Riders The number of riders in each UCI ProTeam may not be fewer than twenty-three (23). The maximum number of riders per UCI ProTeam which may be registered with the UCI is restricted according to the number of new professionals under contract (within the meaning of article 7 of the joint agreement concluded between the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés – Associated Professional Cyclists) and the AIGCP (Association Internationale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels – International Association of Professional Cycling Teams) in the following manner:

Number of new professionals under contract to the UCI ProTeam Maximum number of riders registered with the UCI
0 28
1 29
2-5 30

So a squad with 2-5 neo pro riders can have 30, whilst a team without a neo-pro is capped at 28. Note that a rider is classed as a “neo” in their first two years.

The choice of a new team is not so obvious. Movistar has 25 riders but no neo-pros meaning it can only accommodate three more riders and Rodriguez reportedly comes as a package with four others: Vicioso, Moreno, Losada and Florencio. But Movistar would be a squeeze given Alejandro Valverde is already the star rider and has competing ambitions for the Tour de France.

A team with more room and the budget is BMC Racing. They have 26 riders but two neos meaning room for four riders. But again Purito wants to race the Tour de France and he’d clash with Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen and their stated ambitions, not to mention getting in Philippe Gilbert’s way at other times during the year. Maybe Andy Rihs and his Swiss Francs can’t solve this one?

What about Omega Pharma-Quickstep? Levi Leipheimer’s past collaboration with Michele Ferrari was an open secret but it was only when USADA went public that he lost his job. This means the team needs a grand tour contender but they have only once place left. I’m not sure Mark Cavendish wants to spent July again on a team split between GC and green ambitions. Still, the team has wealthy owners.

Next up is Lampre-Merida. The team announced today that Damiano Cunego will lead in the Tour de France and you can almost hear the sound of groaning and cotton shirts rustling as shoulders shrugged on the Quai de la Bataille de Stalingrad near Paris. The Italian team has 27 riders and room for three… and maybe more if Judge Benedetti scalps Michele Scarponi in the coming weeks. Maybe Merida would be interested in suddenly becoming a bigger force in the sport, they are one of the sport’s biggest manufacturers.

That’s pretty much it for the World Tour teams. Yes Sky has room on paper and the money but the question is whether they have space for another stage race specialist. Quite a few squads still have space for one rider. But I can’t see the others making a move. Famed for bold moves, Vacansoleil-DCM could surprise, they’ve tried with Riccardo Riccò and Ezequiel Mosquera. Fellow Dutch team Argos-Shimano has denied any deal in public. And surely nobody at Astana will get a bad back?

However this is not the end of the choices. Because there is a team with both money and space: IAM Cycling. The new Swiss team has 23 riders and could recruit five and still comply with the rules. It’s also got a wealthy backer with ambitions of riding in the big league. Team owner Michel Thétaz even tried to lure Fabian Cancellara away from Radioshack but the contract was as tightly-pinned as Cancellara’s collarbone. So we have a team willing to spend money to get the big names and with space; the only thing we don’t have is a World Tour licence. But with Rodriguez on board they’d be impossible to ignore when it came to wildcards.

Transfer Window
A quick mention that riders can’t jump teams all time. Without copy-pasting the rulebook again, just note that Rodriguez would have to break his contract with Katusha. Then become a free agent. Then sign with a new team. All this has to be done with consent, including permission from the UCI. But if the requisite break clauses are in place and people are standing by fax machines then this can be done in a day.

However we should note the team in question. Katusha team boss Igor Makarov is a powerful man in the UCI and we can easily spot another potential conflict of interest. Will the UCI be happy to let a break clause apply given this effectively pulls the plug on Katusha’s ambitions, leaving them with a rump of Russian riders? Do Turkeys vote for Christmas?

Conflicted incentives don’t just belong to certain UCI officials. Don’t forget rider agent Edo is motivated by change. Each new contract signed probably means a new arrangement fee for the former sprinter. This isn’t to say he can move the Rodriquez Quintet like pieces on a chessboard, just that everything else being equal he’s paid to write new contracts. And that’s not the only problem:

If Katusha’s licences woes are solved then he’s got a spot along with his team mates plus a good wage deal so it seems in his interest to stay. The intersection of supply and demand does not look good for him, few teams have room and besides they know he’s stuck and could bargain down his wage claims.

Some guesswork but hopefully it explains how a rider can move teams during the season, plus why few teams have the room to recruit a big rider during the season even if they wanted to. Once a team has its riders for the year then it’s fixed; unlike other sports where teams often hire star athletes during the course of the season. For example BMC’s Alessandro Ballan is likely to be out for much of the season but the team won’t buy in another classics player.

But the Catalan risks becoming Spain’s version of “Poupou” Poulidor, an eternal second who keeps losing races thanks to mistakes and misfortune. He won plenty last year but he managed to lose both the Giro and Vuelta, although of course Hesjedal and Contador were obviously worthy winners. Now he’s on Team Chaos, unable to start a race yet alone win anything. Can he afford to miss out on the Ardennes classics and the Tour de France? Or will this losing habit prompt him to jump teams, to stop being at the mercy of others?

38 thoughts on “Will Joaquim Rodriguez Stay or Go?”

    • I’m not so sure. Flavio Becca is very wealthy but not given to spending even more money. Besides with Andy Schleck they already have a Tour podium contender already.

      Rodriguez might state his ambitions for the Tour but with 90km of time trialling, I’m not sure it’s for him. Stage wins yes but others will have shorter odds to win the overall.

  1. Don’t Sky have room for 3 more? 27 riders at the moment and several neo-pros. Its immaterial anyway – I can’t see them squeezing Purito in when they already have Wiggins, Froome, Uran, Henao and Porte for the stage races.

      • There’s always the option of Sky hiring him for his home GT; Wiggins at the Giro, Froome at the Tour and Rodriguez at the Vuelta would give them a shout at trying for all three Grand Tours, without the risk of the main GC contender burning out in multiple tours.

        Of course, this might upset JTL if he is eyeing up the Vuelta for himself, not to mention Purito’s stated ambition of trying for the Tour.

        This isn’t to say that I think Sky will attempt to sign him, just a bit of potential food for thought

  2. OP-Q might make a bit more sense if we work from the premise that JRod won’t have a team dedicated to him winning. He would give OPQ a legitimate chance to sweep the monuments, and he has shown he is quite capable of performing without support in grand tours. It’s not that Cav can’t have a GC competitor on his team, just that he can’t have a whole team dedicated to GC.

  3. If he is allowed to, I can see him go to IAM with his little elves. Could be a good deal for purito in the future as IAM has big plans, and a good deal for IAM and Thétaz as they will be a force to be reckoned with even sooner than he could have hoped for.

  4. What about FDJ!!?? Bear with me….they’ll be in the TDF, and they’ve always had a lot of good but not quite really good riders like Roy, Cassar….and they have that young maverick whose name I can’t quite recall but could well be a genuine top 10 GC guy…..they could, in theory, have quite a strong unit of Mountain Domestiques if they ever actually had a top draw GC man to support. Plus Mark Madiot seems like the sort of DS who can really sell a team and a concept with passion. And having Wackin’ Rod would surely get them invites to other races. I’d like to see him at a French team, and see them really throw everything behind him at the Tour.

    However I reckon, sadly, he’ll go somewhere and not get the support his talent, flair and heart merits

  5. His agent shouldn’t (necessarily) be in favor of a transfer, as UCI regulations stipulate that agents can only get paid a commission on the salary of the rider. So whether that salary comes from Katusha or another team, doesn’t matter. The only advantage for the agent would be if Purito gets a bigger contract with his new team… But given that he had just inked a new deal with Katusha which was probably very well-paid, plus the fact that it is far from ideal to negotiate a new contract now (as the number of “available” teams are very limited, and any team signing him now should have to find some extra money, on top of their foreseen budget), that seems unlikely?

  6. Bad situation for him.At 33 after the best year of his career he’s involved in all this trouble while he might have only one or two good years left. Not to mention the big bucks he should be paid now. Can’t imagine him going to a french team.

  7. It’s easy: I think he should go with the girl on his right (on the left in the photo).
    That’s not even a difficult choice to make, Joaquin.

  8. Purito’s comparatively “poor” TT skills against other GC contenders (and winners) makes him an uncertainty that other teams might find hard to bank on for the big tours at this stage of the new season.

  9. It’s a damn shame he has to hang in limbo. I know this is nothing more than a fantasy but I would like to see him on Euskaltel with Samu. I was impressed with how they both raced during Vuelta a Pais Vasco last year and JRod did a decent time trial for the final stage as well. Since Samu is focusing on the Giro, JRod would be an excellent addition for TdF 2013 with Nieve and Anton.

  10. How about conspiracy theory. All the big playas have already had a grand ‘ole time sitting in an exclusive hotel presidential suite drinking, smoking, and bonking the finest money can buy. UCI, ASO, Team Owners, and perhaps a handful of the top riders. This group has already choreographed the drama that has just started in the lead up to this year’s Tour circus. I.e., the UCI, Katusha, and the rest of the usual playas (suspects) already know the outcome. Katusha overlords already now if they will get a Tour invitation. Rodriguez already knows which team he will ride for in the Tour. Thus, we the collective super fans, casual fans, and all the others in the B-List are left wondering and biting our cuticles until the announcements (pronouncements) are made at the maximum trajectory of titillation and cliff fall. Is it the best version of entertainment we can experience, or are most of us chumps in the matrix being laughed at by the puppet masters of professional cycling, jerking around the adoring fans just for the hell of it. Sometimes I think I don’t give a rats ass, and I will enjoy my bike rides regardless of what the royalty are producing in the latest round of theater.

  11. My preference is OPQS. It’s a but of a put-down to see the main Belgian team with no serious Tour de France presence. And yes, much as I enjoy Cavendish’s sprints, sprinting is a secondary skill in the TdF, and a sprinter cannot expect to have one entire team at his disposal, let alone a good team, which is also bad for “le spectacle” since these sprinter-based teams are the most effective show-killers: you know you can wait for the “flamme rouge” to wake up.

  12. I know that cycling is more than being about one rider, although an interview with Oprah today may try to challenge this, but it’s a genuine shame that one of the best and most exciting current riders in the prime of his career could effectively lose a season through no fault of his own.

    I hope this gets sorted pronto.

  13. Surely the best option is to sit tight, wait for the Pro Conti licence and get a wild card for the Tour? I’m sure Makarov can lean on enough people to make that happen.

    If Katusha were to not get a pro conti licence, would all the riders then be free agents? Would their best guys all suddenly transfer to Rusvelo? Can you keep JRod on a standard conti licence and make him do .2 races all year?

    It’s an indictment that we’re on the verge of the new season and the best rider of last year doesn’t know who he’s racing for or when he can race. Farcical. Again.

    • I agree but one story of Rodriguez’s career is losing out. They say even as a child he’d lose races despite being stronger in the races. How long does he want to sit tight? Apparently he’s ready to move.

      Also, yes if the team goes pro conti then normally the break clause can be used, this seems to be standard.

  14. I think purito better stay where he is. He aint getting any younger. He has a good chemistry with the squad he needs to work on his weakness. He needs how to guage his efforts more properly. Going out too fast and too soon in the 3wk races. Good chap i think he is. But all teams are filled no room @ the Inn for him. He maybe the one who will put his team back up there.

  15. IAM would be risky, though. There wouldn’t be a guarantee to ride the Tour. And that guarantee is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Also i don’t want to see nouveau riche IAM at the tour. A lot of B-list riders who didn’t make it and a few youngsters (some promising, some not so). Should be never enough.

    Astana is my guess. They have the money, they have no leader for the Tour (Fuglsang? ROTFL), and i’m sure they can create space if they want to. Nice to have a continental team.

Comments are closed.