Stagiaire Season

Peloton, soigneur, bidon. The lexicon of pro cycling has many French words and stagiaire, French for “intern”, is the topic du jour. It refers to riders who join a pro team on a trial basis from 1 August to the end of the season.

Definition: it applies to an elite or U23 rider who has not ridden for World Tour or Pro Conti team before. A stagiaire cannot ride World Tour races, only Continental level races and they may race for their amateur club or team during the trial period if they want. World Tour and Pro Conti teams make take three stagiaires from 1 August onwards, Continental and Women’s teams may take two.

National preference: recruitment tends to track national roots. For all the talk of big superteams scouring the world for talent, Team Sky take two stagiaires from Britain and BMC Racing take two of their three from Switzerland (BMC might fly under an American flag but their sponsor and funding comes from Switzerland and do plenty of their riders) including Tom Bohli, a hulk of a rider with a track background in the style of Stefan Küng. Giant-Alpecin bolster their German identity with 2014 U23 German meister Max Walscheid. One exception here is Etixx-Quickstep which has two Colombians including sprint sensation Fernando Gaviria.

Winning DNA: this year’s draft includes Julien Bernard (pictured) with Trek Factory Racing and Valentin Madouas at Bretagne-Séché, the sons of Jean-François Bernard and Laurent Madouas, French pros in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Continuing the family theme there’s Rayanne Bouhanni joining his brother Nacer at Cofidis. Lotto-Soudal’s Frederik Frison is related to Herman Frison, 1990 Gent-Wevelgem winner.

Stepping stone: some stagiaires join because they’re turning pro already. Riding with their future colleagues makes for a good introduction and a smooth transition. Last year the likes of Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) were locked into their pro teams already and riding as a stagiaire was merely part of their career progression.

Dropped: any rider pulling on their pro team kit tomorrow and clipping their feet into a team-issue bike might feel pretty special but future employment isn’t guaranteed. At a glance it looks like at least a third of stagiaires will return to the amateur ranks without a contract and the risk of looking like damaged goods. Sometimes the retreat is planned part of a plan, a nurtured rider gets a trial one summer, continues their development the next season in the amateur U23 ranks and then can turn pro later. Take Gregor Mühlberger who rode with NetApp-Endura last year, went back to the amateurs and is back with Bora-Argon 18 again.

Some trials just don’t work out. A team can see ability in results, lab tests and power data in the same way an employer can read exam results or qualifications on a CV. But the trial allows for the softer skills to be tested. Is the stagiaire good with the team, whether carrying bottles in a race or cracking jokes at the dinner table or do they retire to their hotel room or spend too long staring at their phone? Even the small things like saying please and thank-you to the mechanics and soigneurs can help show whether a rider is good for the team, after all there’s a long list of riders ready to step up instead.

Cheap deal: some riders can be taken on because they’re cheap to hire, they’ll race for a team jersey and the chance to impress. This matters in the second half of the season where a lot of the roster could be tired, injured and spread across races like the Vuelta. Having a couple of extra riders can help fill spots on the team.

Polish that CV: given that a lot of pro teams are run a bit like a family business, having contacts helps to land a trial. Results can help but sending in a CV to a team can still help catch attention. Some amateurs take on agents to help place them too; or rather the agent takes on a promising rider, pleads their case and if a pro contract follows the agent will start to earn.

Four to watch:

  • Jack Haig (pictured) impressed in the 2014 Tour Down Under and did well again this year, for example 7th place on the stage to Paracombe where Rohan Dennis rode away up the climb. He’s been a long term plan to join Orica-Greenedge and has been racing steadily in the amateur ranks. He’s currently doing the Tour d’Alsace with the Australian national team and Saturday’s stage over the Grand Ballon will be a good test of his climbing talent
  • Fernando Gaviria doesn’t need much of an introduction after his successful start to the season beating Mark Cavendish and Sacha Modolo in the Tour de San Luis, it earned him a ride with Etixx-Quickstep. But it’s the leap from introduction to confirmation that matters now. Moving to Europe is a big deal and so is coping with pressure, all while staying hungry despite a big contract
  • Would Rayanne Bouhanni join Cofidis if his brother wasn’t the team leader? Rayanne is a good rider and more of a punchy classics contender than a sprinter so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares and whether a contract follows
  • Tao Geoghegan Hart joins Team Sky. You wonder why the team takes on young riders given it doesn’t need to develop riders: it can just buy in the best when needed so it’ll be interesting to see how TGH and fellow Londoner Alex Peters fare, both for 2015 season and in the upcoming two years. Italian beefcake Gianni Moscon will join Sky later this season too.

Stagiaires are trainees who can join a pro team from 1 August onwards. It’s much like the outside world with a few trainees taken for exploitative reasons, namely they’re cheap and hungry. Many are on a trial, a long term job interview if you like and some have already inked a pro contract and are making the transition to the pro ranks already.

64 thoughts on “Stagiaire Season”

  1. Re sky and developing riders, to be fair they have developed a few in addition to buying in talent (Kennaugh, Rowe & does Thomas count?) – however it could also be argued that some talent has stalled there rather than kick on (Kennaugh again) and the Yates’s would not have developed as far as they have so far if they had joined Sky I think.

    • Brailsford said as much last year during the Tour, that the best thing for the Yates’ was to be riding grand tours and other important races but he couldn’t offer that at Sky. I would expect that he’s got a plan to bring them to Sky in the future, though, particularly if their climbing skills continue to improve.

  2. Sky are an interesting one. Given the BC track side of things, and Team Wiggins, will we start to see a steady conveyor belt of talent going from track to wiggins to sky? You can see the route Owain Doull is on could become common.

    Also, do the UCI publish a list of all stagiaires?

  3. Re Madouas and Bernard junior: how many sons of professional riders have exceeded the results of their fathers?

    I can think of two – Bradley Wiggins and Dan Martin, both of whom have been much more successful than their relative journeymen fathers.

    But for many others – Axel Merckx, Nico Roche, Boy Van Poppel … Any of those rides could reasonably be said to have had decent careers, except when seen against their fathers.

    (Of course, you would have to have been exceptional indeed to exceed Eddy Merckx, genetic offspring or otherwise).

    So I wonder what is in store for Betnard Jr: decent journeyman like Nico Roche, or exceptional Tour winner like Bradley Wiggins?


    • It’s said a lot of the ability comes from the maternal DNA, the mitochrondrial inheritance. For example Adri Van der Poel gets the Poulidor mitochrondria not the Van der Poel.

      Tony Gallopin is doing better than his father although he was never seen as a huge talent (he’d be dropped in a lot of junior races). As for Bernard Junior, time will tell. He’s been a good elite rider in his region but hasn’t set the French amateur scene alight.

      • Interesting – thanks! Taylor Phinney is I guess another example of a rider with an illustrious mother, though he had a pretty decent father as well.

        (I guess you mean Matthieu VdP, by the way, son of Adri VdP and Corinne Poulidor).


        • Just look up “Mitochondrial inheritance”. This intra-cellular aspect is important for sport but paternal inheritance matters too, for example the possibility to inherit, say, large lungs, counts for plenty too.

      • Well, Tony Gallopin was not far from the winner Marcel Kittel in the Junior World Championships Time Trial in Zolder some years back…

      • To borrow a couple of TomJ’s examples of current riders whose fathers were also cyclists and to apply the inheritance of maternal DNA, then Dan Martin just have more of the Roche sporting DNA than Nicole Roche! Which might go some way to explaining Martin has had a relatively more successful career thus far.

        Talking of cycling families, there seem to be many riders in the current peloton with familial links to others and this is not just a modern phenomenon. I have often wondered if there any stats to suggest this is more common in cycling than other sports?

        • my guess (only supported by anecdotal evidence), is that it is likely more common in niche sports such as cycling than in more widespread sports… also, because of the way cycling is commentated on (as well as reported on) offspring tend to be “tied” to their parents more tightly… p&p can’t mention nico roche without also mentioning stephen (heck, phil calls him stephen half the time), whereas (for example) there are many 2nd generation players in the nfl, but the announcers don’t emphasize it at all, it is rarely mentioned…

          from a usa centric pov, some hall of fame offspring whose fathers had varying degrees of success…

          kobe bryant – son of jelly bean… jelly bean, while more talented than 99.999% of the people out there, wasn’t anywhere near a top level player…

          andrew luck – son of oliver…. oliver played a couple years in the nfl without success… note: i’m putting andrew in the hof prematurely, but i’m pretty confident he is that level of player…

          the manning boys – sons of archie… archie defined mediocre… great collegiate player, got beaten up severely in pros with bad teams…

          ken griffey jr. – son of ken sr… ken sr. was a very good player, by far the “best” in this list of fathers…

          there’s plenty more, and there are ones that go the other way as well (father hof, son not so good)…

          also, there are several professional level players that the grandfather was a pro… jayson werth comes to mind, his maternal grandfather is dick schofield. who had a “decent” mlb career…

    • I almost did a “five to watch” with him listed but don’t know too much more about him, he’s not had amazing results this year and he’s already a (semi) pro with An Post. Famous so far for his milisecond defeat in the Worlds U23 TT.

      • He’s (been) a big fish in the small pond of the UK amateur time trialling scene. So a sort of Alex Dowsett route through the sport. Arguably better than Dowsett at the same age. Although comparisons are hard.

  4. Re Julien Bernard I would say he’s more a decent journeyman with nice wins those last 2 years in the amateur ranks. He is 23 so it’s probably his last chance to earn a pro contract.
    Valentin Madouas is much younger as he turned 19 this month and rides for BIC2000, Bretagne-Séché feeder team. In 2015 he won 2 famous amateur races : Boucles de la Loire and Manche Océan

    • Madouas junior has been winning since the start of his junior days, he seems a big prospect. But you wonder if he gets a headstart with his father’s cultural inheritance, in that he’s surrounded by people who know cycling, there are bikes in ready supply and a network of contacts. Once he’s in a race of course he’s very good too, here’s not there for nepotism. Madouas seems to spend a lot of time duelling with Corentin Ermenault, son of Philippe, an ex-pro and track specialist Philippe.

      • “draft” implies an element of compulsion that is absent when a stagiare sign with a pro team.
        Think of military service, or, in the case of major US team sports, a college graduate being obliged to sign for the team who pick him.

        • yup….

          a draft would be rather interesting in cycling, but would require a collective bargaining agreement between the teams (who would have to form some type of “league structure”) and a cyclists union, and i don’t think we will see that anytime soon… it would restructure the entire sport, draftees would have to be tied to teams for a significant amount of time, “free agency” would have to be above board (no more “wink wink” deals), etc…

          not workable without blowing the whole thing up (which might not be such a bad idea, it’s hard to imagine cycling could be run worse than it is today)….

          • Agreed, concepts such as a collective bargaining agreement, a draft, and a salary cap will never be used in cycling because there are too many fingers in the pie (UCI, National organization,ASO, WADA, smaller race organizers, team owners) who are making a butt load of money with the way the system works now and are afraid to risk losing their power,wealth and status within the sport and their communities.

  5. These two won’t be Stagiaires, but how comes the Topsport Vlaandaren pair Edward Theuns and Jelle Wallays haven’t been picked up by a World Tour team ?
    Both very good riders and of course got a 1/2 podium at this year’s Dwars door Vlaanderen.

  6. Also, do Astana have a squad full of fit riders? Seems odd that they haven’t signed anyone. Would give them a chance to give a couple of young Kazakhs a chance if nothing else.

    A cynic might think that they’re being risk averse and not hiring people mid season who could lose them a WT licence.

  7. You say that they may not ride WT events yet I’m fairly sure Caleb Ewan rode the Tour of Beijing last year.
    Your mistake or mine?

  8. I really hoped TGH would end up anywhere else but Sky. But, ho-hey, Garmindale would be a good choice, he’ll figure it out. He’s got an opinion on him, so it would be good to hear his reasoning and good luck to the fella. Eddie Dunbar is another one going places to, not afraid to have a go.

  9. Got to love “or spend too long staring at their phone” what kid does not do this?

    Thanks for the heads up on the new kids on the horizon.

    • I have to say, thinking about the life of Stagiaire, it must be a huge challenge for a youngster.
      There must be a lot of travelling, lack of privacy, life spent in faceless hotels, probably quite lonely too . If anyone can remember leaving home and going to, say, University it is a tremendous upheaval. Leaving your friends, family and familiarity. Of course there is excitement at the new life, but homesickness is always just over the horizon.
      I can see why the teams tend to take Stagiaires on a same-nationality basis.
      And of course the social life that is usually the bond of a student’s life is denied, to a great extent, to the Stagiaire. A young man who very very quickly has to assume the mantle of a professional sportsman and all that it entails.
      I am not surprised that a third of Stagiaires do not find a team after their trial. In fact, in comparison to some sports, that drop-out rate is actually quite low.

  10. It seems from Sky website that Alex Peters has a contract next year with Sky but TGH ‘only’ a stagiaire. TGH is a year young so maybe he will do another year as an amateur then look at contracts for year after. I tend to agree it may be good for him to go elsewhere. I think as with recent discussions on French riders moving out of local ‘comfort zone’ and trying other teams this could be good for young Brits.

  11. We see lots of staigaires here at the Tour of Utah. Just so the WT squads can fill out their rosters.

    Talked to Team Hincapie bus driver last year and he said Vaughters had the bawlz to call Hincapie and ask him for a couple of riders. George didn’t even bother to field the call himself. He let one of his DS’ handle it.

    Roflmao !

    • Will Porte be more than a third-week flop at BMC? These guys get hired to be gregari, then get ideas of winning the Grand Tours or big classics. While Paolo Bettini played the gregario to Bartoli before going on to win some big ones, how many of these other guys end up cracking under the pressure when it’s their turn to carry the team? Most recently the big flap was how Landa got screwed over by Astana. Hard to believe he’s going to be the top dog at SKY anytime soon. Uran’s another who plenty of folks forecast big wins for once he was out of the gregario role…so far it’s not going so well.

  12. Larry, life possible seems better with a new team kit colors and a different signature on your
    large pay check! New teammates and past rumors!

    • So Porte will be more than a third-week flop in the Grand Tours with BMC? No surprise as to why he’s leaving, but more about why BMC is writing that fat paycheck. They already have a similar type rider in Van Garderen, but perhaps they’re going to ditch him?

      • I suppose from BMC’s perspective, the worst (probable) case scenario is they now have a proven GT-capable super-domestique on their team (and not working for Sky)

        • Probable as in, discounting unlikely worse-case scenarios such as ‘Porte has a career-ending accident in January 2016’, not as in ‘I think he’ll probably stay a super-domestique’.
          I am choosing to be optimistic, if only because I enjoy his smart-aleck responses in interviews.

        • \actually, they have two guy they can throw at any race. Have a GC thrreat at races that are running concurrent or two GC threats to throw at a GT.

          Not a bad position to be in.

          As to Porte and TVG having had disappointing palmares or not able to deliver in big races, Porte is now in his prime and having success in stage races. Nothing wrong with that. Not every rider is an ironman deluxe like AC or CF. Tejay is only 26 and entering his prime. To expect him to win every bike race or GT is ridiculous.

  13. Bang on the money with that main picture, as Fernando Gaviria gave a very good showing today as Etixx’ stagiaire in the London-Surrey Classic.
    He got in the breakaway group of eight after Box Hill and only got dropped after a late attack by Vanmarcke, Swift, Drucker and Teunissen in the last 15km.
    Still a very creditable 8th place finish however. Top Etixx rider in.
    He looks a good’un.
    It will be interesting to see how he develops , maybe if Cavendish is to get a new contract, he will be tasked with showing Gaviria the ropes ?

Comments are closed.