Transfer Season

Rigoberto Uran Giro

Today is the start of the transfer season for pro cycling, at least in official terms. It’s the time when deals to change teams can be signed but also the start of a nervous two months for lesser riders whose contract is up at the end of the year.

The more you look at it, the more 1 August is an arbitrary date rather than the start of anything new. More so right now because almost every top rider looks to be staying put for 2014.

Unlike many normal jobs, you can’t just change from one employer to another at any time in the year. Sports involve seasons and teams and the movement of riders is regulated. See the case of Alessandro Petacchi who has officially joined Omega Pharma-Quickstep today after the team had tried to sign him in the spring but got blocked by the rules.

But even moves to join a pro team for 2014 are regulated. A pro with an existing World Tour or Pro Continental team cannot ink a deal to change teams until today.

2.15.120 A transfer period exists and applies to all changes of team, whether between two UCI ProTeams or a between a UCI ProTeam and a professional continental team. The transfer period for any change of team during the season extends from 1-15 August. For any change of team between two seasons, the transfer period extends from 1 August to 31 December.

2.15.120b A UCI ProTeam or licence applicant may only recruit riders during the transfer period. For the purposes of this article «recruit» shall be deemed to mean concluding a contract with a rider to ride for the UCI ProTeam or licence applicant’s team.

Read the rule and you’ll soon see “‘recruit’ shall be deemed to mean concluding a contract” and that the obvious conclusion to a contract is signing it. In other words a rider and a team can talk any time they like, they can discuss pay, the recruitment of other riders and more. All so long as they don’t “conclude” the contract, in other words they can settle all the terms of the deal and wait for 1 August to ink it.

Because hiring a top rider is literally a big deal, a lot of work can go into the contract celebrations. So instead of inking a deal before today, other agreements can be made, for example a deal to pay a signing bonus if the contract is signed in August or perhaps a bonus scheme where a rider is rewarded for every UCI point they earn this year, in effect meaning they’re riding for their current team but also incentivised to ride for their future team.

The reality is the transfer season is open all year round, it is only from today that deals can be signed in full and these moves made public. In other words the transfer season is almost meaningless, a window reserved for press releases and photo opportunities.

2013 > 2014
This year’s transfer season looks very quiet. In recent years moves by Alberto Contador and Mark Cavendish have defined the jobs market and given fans a way to project themselves into 2014. But looking at the UCI rankings, none of the top-10 are moving teams. It’s only Rui Costa in 13th place who is reported to be looking at some offers to move and maybe the same for Michele Scarponi in 14th.

It seems the big spending teams are all content with their roster and are only making small additions here and there. The exception and possibly the biggest transfer of the year could be Rigoberto Uran from Sky to OPQS, a grand tour contender but he’s often played a support role so it’s not a headline-grabber. Meanwhile Astana shower some petrodollars on Lieuwe Westra and Franco Pellizotti, a combo whose combined age is 65 but a deal that could be thwarted by the MPCC Rules which insist a banned rider like Pellizotti cannot be signed for two years following his ban, and the Italian was caught with a suspicious passport and given a ban that ended in May 2012 meaning he can’t be signed until May 2014. An interesting test for the MPCC and Astana.

Instead renewals seem to be the norm this year, with Chris Froome looking to bump up his contract to a level more commensurate with his status as a peer of Vincenzo Nibali, Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador. Garmin-Sharp have been renewing several contracts with Hesjedal, Talansky staying and T-J Slagter from Belkin coming, it’s almost as if they’ve got extra funding for 2014.

Lower down the rankings there can be plenty of movement. For example Europcar have a sponsorship renewal but with the same cash sum available meaning if Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland get new contracts then there’s not enough cash to retain classics riders like Damien Gaudin and Séb Turgot. It’s not an easy time with many Euskaltel-Euskadi and Vacansoleil-DCM riders looking for a new job. This is particularly awkward for the market as it means a surplus of both climbers and classics riders hitting the market, putting the squeeze on a range of riders.

Today marks the start of the transfer season but it looks like a quiet time without any big stars changing teams. The 1 August deadline doesn’t seem to have much purpose beyond delaying official announcements and providing some post-Tour headlines because if contracts can be officially signed and dated from today, the handshakes have been done weeks or even months before.

39 thoughts on “Transfer Season”

    • I think Uran will have to cope on his own or with only a couple of helpers. For OPQS a mountain stage win here and there plus a podium would be ideal along with Cavendish being happy with a few wins, rather than an all out move to take the Vuelta overall.

    • Is there any indication that the signing of Uran is for anything other than OPQS GC aspiration’s for the the Giro and Vuelta with the OPQS train for le tour next year still focussed on Cav? Bringing Renshaw in would suggest at least another year focussed upon Cav.

      With all due respect to Rigo, other than the Giro this year after Wiggo went home, he hasn’t had the opportunity for GT leadership. There is no doubting though that he will get plenty more opportunities at OPQS though being that caliber of climber.

      • Not quite true. He was Sky’s GC leader at the ’12 Giro when he managed 7th and the maglia bianca. The question is how much support he’s going to get from OPQS for a genuine GT GC assault, rather than just stage wins.

    • Teams need to budget and build rosters for one year. There’s never an ideal time, as a manager you might learn your star rider is going so you have to fill the vacuum left and this cascades down to other teams etc.

    • Not quite. But given the sponsorship is uncertain the riders are not going to wait for good news to arrive, better to secure a job elsewhere. Vacansoleil-DCM team management are in talks with other sponsors but if it happens, likely for a Pro Conti team whilst Euskaltel-Euskadi seems to have run out of money, there’s talk of a mystery supporter waiting but in both cases the longer there is no news, the more riders will go elsewhere meaning anyone looking to take over the team will end up buying a few managers, fleet of vehicles and, say, seven riders who could not find another team.

  1. Re Pellizotti:

    From the cycling news aticle about the clash with MPCC rules:

    “When contacted by Cyclingnews, Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli admitted there was a problem concerning the MPCC rules and Pellizotti joining the team but said the team is trying to find a solution.

    “We recognise it’s a legitimate issue,” Martinelli said.

    “I’ll take this up with team manager Alexandre Vinokourov and come up with a solution to this real issue in the next few days.”.”

    Anyone want to guess what Vino’s response will be…?

    • Let’s just be crystal clear about Astana. This has all been said before but worth putting down in one place to help inform this issue.

      – Martinelli was DS for Pantani and Garzelli at Mercatone Uno in the 90’s. Here is his comment after Pantani tested positive in the the 99 Giro: “I don’t believe the tests for a second. This is frightful. I hope that Pantani now goes on and starts in the Tour de France.” Credibility = 0.
      – Alexander Vino is also in team management. He has never come clean about his doping past. Alumnus of Casino, T-Mobile and Liberty Seguros. Among the most doped-up teams in the history of world sport. An unrepentant doper who has no place guiding the next generation of riders (in any team). There is a very big difference between a Brian Holm or a Jonathan Vaughters (both having admitted to doping in the past) and a person like Vino.
      – they have hired back doper Andrey Kashechkin who tried to have his doping offences overturned by claiming the tests were a breach of his human rights. What a genius.
      – Astana was the team that Condator was riding for when he ingested the dodgy steak in the Tour that led to his positive test.

      Highlights only, the list goes on and on. I don’t think it is unfair to treat this team with the highest degree of scepticism – they’ve earned it. No surprises that they have no qualms in hiring ex-dopers such as Pelizotti. Their membership of the MPCC is nothing but paying lip service to clean cycling.

      • Astana also barred from the 2008 Tour due to its links to Operación Puerto.

        … and let’s not forget which team Lance joined out of retirement.

      • Just want to clarify something you wrote – Marco Pantani did NOT test positive for anything. He was kicked out of the Giro in ’99 because his hematocrit was too high. How they screwed that up when everyone else managed to keep theirs just under the limit is the big question that remains to this day. Only much later did reliable testing for EPO get going – the results of those tests were just made public very recently. Martinelli’s comment is reasonable, back then anyone caught with too-high hematocrit was kept out of races for 2 weeks for “health reasons” meaning he should have been able to race the ’99 Tour.

    • I keep checking CN for signing news, only spooted after reading it here. Looks like all the big deals have been announced now unless Vacan or Euskatel riders continue moving, and all were at OPQS. Will be great to see Cav and Renshaw back together, for the last two years the best sprinter in the world has had the second, and sometimes third, best lead-out. Sounds silly when put like that.

      I’m guessing they’ll drop the MPCC membership with some half-hearted reasoning along the lines of it unfairly restricting riders who have served a ban and are now riding “clean”, maybe they can even find it contravenes European employment law. That’s what I’d advise them to look at anyway.

      • Being registered in Kazakhstan, which hasn’t acceded to the Council of Europe and therefore isn’t subject to European Convention on Human Rights or required to grant its citizens the fundamental rights enshrined pretty much everywhere else in Europe (even Russia), they’d have a hard time even making that case 😉

        • I’ve heard a lot of riders are employed as independent contractors these days, so I think it would matter where they are registered as a business.

          They can always say it doesn’t fall in line with Kazakh employment law, although a quick google seems to show it’s not very well followed anyway.

          • My guess is that they’ll withdraw from the MPCC. This ‘pesky’ kind of restriction wont suit them at all. After all we are talking about the team whose management are so disorganised that they managed to end up 1 rider too many on their quota, and a sudden rider ‘retirement through back injury’ excuse had to be whistled up to get them out of that hole.

  2. Regarding Garmin’s budget, I think there are few retirements expected that may account for their renewals and new signings, rather than new sponsor money.

  3. Given BMC’s “exciting” season I am surprised that they haven’t been more active on the transfer front. Perhaps ghey’re broke after spending so much for a team who sum seems so much less than the promise of its individual parts…

      • I hope we see more from Evans. He may not be desperately charismatic but it wasn’t nice to see him suffer in the Tour after a hard Giro. Maybe he needs to take a different approach at this stage in his career, I think serious GC contention is getting beyond him, but it would be great to see him doing well.

      • Are the BMC stars all on large salaries with little or no bonus structure in place? Can’t quite grasp how they continue to underperform, but offer some occasional glimpses of their true abilities. Reading ‘Domestique’ right now, lots of insights into riders motivation & team support, could be a bit of that going on too.

  4. I know it’s not part of the transfer season, but what if Katusha is refused WorldTour status? Perhaps Rodriguez and Moreno jumps ship for greener pastures? Also, what are the chances that Mr. Tinkoff and his 6 million euros attempt to engage another sponsor and pick up the Vacansoleil?

  5. Europe Car broke the MPCC strength by flaunting it’s rules at the Dauphine. Astana will either request dispensation by saying ” he wont do it with us – we promise (that our PED process is infallible)” or pulling out. The again, they could just ignore it and we see a great idea fail due to lack of back-bone…

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