Start the New Year in November

Sometimes you can look at big topics like calendar reform or concepts like “truth and reconciliation”. But here’s a small practical problem that can be easily fixed.

Rider contracts run from 1 January to 31 December and the timing has some absurd consequences.

The first absurdity is the visual spectacle of the team training camp. Right now several teams are holding training camps and team building sessions and new recruits for 2014 are taking part although they’re still salaried by their old team. And because riders are still technically employed by their team until the end of the year a new recruit must ride their 2013 team bike and dress in the clothes of their current employer until 1 January. There are three practical problems:

  • teams inviting the media to a training camp will find harmonious images gatecrashed by new recruits still in their old kit. For example if Astana go for a ride today, Lieuwe Westra must still ride his Vacansoleil-DCM kit until the end of the year
  • squads are trying to build team spirit ahead of the new season. Team camps at this time of year are practically the only time when a whole squad is assembled in one place. Classics riders and stage racers go their separate ways soon. But nothing says “outsider” more than a rider wearing the kit of a rival team
  • More important than photo opps and cod-psychology, moving teams means a new bike and often a change in pedals, cleats, saddles, bars and more even if a rider’s position is copied across, frame geometry and components can mean getting used to handling requires adjustment. Often a team and its bike sponsor will refine aerodynamics and biomechanics. If the UCI expects riders to start racing in the World Tour on 21 January it cannot expect riders to make all these changes on 1 January and have only three weeks to adapt.

There’s also the fundamental point that by time we get to November, a rider who switches teams is no longer working for their old team but is training for the upcoming season with their new employer. Everyone is salaried by their old team but by now their working for their new team. Take Rigo Uran who is still wearing Sky kit for training but he’s just visited Specialized wind tunnel because he’s riding for OPQS in 2014.

There are work-arounds, for example Astana are giving out unmarked team-issue bikes. Michele Scarponi is still wearing Lampre-Merida kit but riding a stealthy Specialized. Others just ignore the rule, Rigoberto Uran is riding his OPQS Specialized in the hills of Colombia. Meanwhile BMC Racing got all riders to pose in BMC kit for a photo several weeks ago, putting the likes of Peter Velits, Darwin Atapuma and Peter Stetina in red and black – but only after seeking permission from their current employers. But breaching the rules isn’t good and only highlights the petty problem.

Simple solution
With the World Tour season stopping in October it makes sense to align the contractual period around the cycling season rather than the calendar year. The UCI could bring the contractual year forward so that a rider is employed by their team from 1 November to 31 October.

It’s hard to think of the negatives here, perhaps the transition makes a difference and you’d might want to move the team licensing process back in time but that’s something else that’s worthwhile. Some teams still want to use the 1 January to unveil new kit but that can still be done.

34 thoughts on “Start the New Year in November”

  1. Formula One had a similar problem with drivers in the past testing in unmarked helmets and white overalls (and sometimes even totally blacked out cars). F1 gets around it now by having no tests from the end of the season onwards but it always seemed short sighted. Once the rider/driver has walked out of the service course/factory for the last time, why prolong the problem; every team would benefit from being relaxed about the final contract weeks as every team hires new riders from other teams every single year. It seems like something they could all agree to turn a blind eye to irrespective of the rules.

  2. Has anyone/team been sanctioned for breaching these rules?

    If not, and assuming the lack of sanction is because of a lack of enforcement, the the rules do seem redundant. Financial years can be split from contractual years after all.

    • There are consequences for the riders not fulfilling their contractual obligations. It can seem harsh but I know of examples where team managers have used the appearance of riders out of team kit with their new team as an excuse to claw back salaries.

    • Yes, there have been a few cases. As Chris says one or two team managers are on the lookout for riders who have left but not fulfilling their contractual obligations by riding in kit/on team bike so they can fine them… and pocket the cash.

      I can’t remember who it was but there was a case a couple of years ago that went public with one rider getting in trouble for this.

      EDIT: there was a dispute with Slipstream and Trent Lowe

  3. Uran has been riding around on a specialized for a while – it does seem ludicrous. I’ve also noticed a few riders that have changed teams (specifically from WT to PC teams) riding about in their new team kits already – I’m sure theres a photo of adam blyth in NFTO kit kicking around twitter somewhere.

  4. One benefit of the current process immediately comes to mind. If a rider is dropped by their team at the end of their contract (notified in August or later) then they are at least paid for a few months whilst still trying to find a team. Assuming riders are notified at the start of August they get 5 months salary before being officially unemployed.

    Likewise if a rider is notified late (say October) that they won’t get a ride or don’t sign a contract until October like De Gendt did this year then they run the risk of being without a rider with no notice and no time to find a new one before their contract runs out.

    Moving the contract period to Nov-Oct without changing the ‘transfer window’ could just lead to mad rush in September/October to take any ride that presents itself and probably wouldn’t benefit riders. Moving the contract period to Nov-Oct as part of a larger change to the way cycling contracts work makes sense though, especially if you’re also looking to make sure teams and licenses are settled earlier in the year.

    • Note the rules say riders have to be notified by late September whether they have a job or not. Some teams/riders seem unaware of this though but you could bring the date forward a bit.

      The hard part is linking all this to the transfer window and the points/licence system but in other posts on here I’ve suggested this would be better if brought forward.

      • And I agree, bring everything forward together seems like a sensible approach but I think isolating contracts and implementing a change to a Nov-Oct contract year would be a bad idea if nothing else followed suit.

        My comment was directed more at those who thought this was an easy problem to fix in isolation. It’s not. Many different elements feed into the discussion and despite it appearing to be an easy fix it’s likely to get caught up in discussions of more fundamental change to the way the World Tour works.

  5. It’s a strange rule to have in place, given that it seems to be an arbitrary linking to an annual calendar, rather than any serious thought being put into it.

    The issue if rider salary being paid by one team while training with another is also, I’d imagine, pretty unique to cycling and a rather unfortunate circumstance to have.

    Does the same apply to retiring riders? Do they get paid until the end of the year, even if they’ve stopped racing and training?

  6. It should be noted that the BMC Racing Team garnered all the appropriate permissions to conduct its team presentation in October with new riders for 2014 appearing in the Pearl Izumi kits of their future team. There was no breach of the rules, UCI or otherwise.

  7. This is a big deal only for the folks who make the stuff – I don’t believe the riders and team managers care at all. Only the marketing mavens get wound up about these things. NOBODY wins or loses based on what it says on the downtube of the bike they ride or who makes their shorts…despite what the industry would like us to believe.

    • Although I seem to remember that whilst they are able to ride the new bikes with their new teams, they ride in unmarked overalls and un-decalled bikes and I believe while permission is almost always granted they are generally excluded from any media activities or commenting on the previous/ new bike. It does at least let them get used to the new machinery that they will be riding next season.

      • As to getting used to new bicycles…that’s a stretch as there’s a far greater difference in MOTOGP, where the machine is at least 50% (and I’d argue more) of the formula for success. Currently there are just 3 or 4 who can win there and it’s not just because they are the best riders. It’s like F1, without the top equipment you have little chance, while in cycling I still believe Chris Froome and Svein Tuft would have finished in their same respective positions this past July in France, even if they switched bike, clothing and component brands.

  8. Seems like they could use the TDU as an excuse to make, say, 2016 a “stump year” then make the contract calendar start in November. This rule is probably pre-global cycling where there was no big January race. It would benefit the UCI, as it would highlight the TDU as a more serious race instead of a race to work out the kinks for the upcoming season.

    So far the PGA Tour’s calendar change has been awesome… no pause in the drama.

      • well, that insightful, relevant comment by mike makes this my second and last INRNG post… Grow up mike. It’s called an analogy. One major sport just altered their calendar, and it’s seen as successful so far. Go outside and go for a ride… let the poison out.

        • Sam, just ignore him – every site has trolls or other idiots who don’t contribute to the debate. Please continue to give insightful relevant analogies, its good to read.

  9. Many businesses use a “fiscal” year calendar for accounting purposes, rather than the normal calendar year. This makes sense when the business’s revenue & expenses have a seasonality dependence. For example, a fiscal year might run from 1-Oct 2013 to 30-Sept-2014.

    Might make more sense, if for purposes of cycling contracts & general team finances, if the “year” ran from 1-Dec-2013 to 30-Nov-2014

  10. Wow, more great insight and commonsense along with the usual amount of absurdity when it comes to cycling rules and the governing body. They really are in need of a make-over to end all make-over. Over to you Brian Cookson. Change should be as easy as shooting fish in the proverbial barrel.

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