Back Stories

There’s plenty of racing on at the moment, Friday will see five different international pro races happening plus the Tour de l’Avenir starts. Rider transfers announcements make the news too at the moment too. But what if the biggest stories were behind the scenes?

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Transfer Day

Mikel Landa

It’s transfer day in cycling. Under the UCI rules existing professionals can now sign for another team for the 2018 season, both a pointless rule and a precious one.

Seven the top-10 in the Tour de France are potentially on the market* but it’s also the start of a nervous two months for lesser riders whose contract is up at the end of the year. Here’s a quick scan of the market…

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Rider Agents

Chris Horner’s jobs saga is over with a one year contract with Lampre-Merida being announced today and so he’ll start his 20th season as a pro. It’s a triumph for his new agent Baden Cooke who is getting a lot of publicity out of the deal, valuable since he’s setting up a new agency. It’s the second time this week news of a big deals has emerged with Peter Sagan’s reported agreement to join the new Alonso team for 2015. Normally agents work in the background so here’s a quick look at their role.

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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.

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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.

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UCI To Close “Dangerous” Petacchi Transfer Loophole

Sprinters and lawyers have more in common than you think. They’re often well-paid and they spend their time trying to squeeze through gaps and loopholes.

In recent days we’ve had news that the Omega Pharma – Quickstep team had been looking to hire Alessandro Petacchi. The Italian would make a useful addition to the team as a leadout man for Mark Cavendish. He is fast and experienced and if he’s not the victor he once was, there’s a career for a year or two spent in the service of Cavendish.

But cycling doesn’t normally allow mid-season transfers and if some reports said OPQS mechanics had even built a Specialized for Petacchi, he’s not moved yet. Indeed it looks like a potential loophole has been closed by the UCI, fearing the precedent could set by a mid-season transfer. But what if we allowed teams to trade riders during the season and created a transfer market?

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Big Wins and Slow Transfers

Whilst there are several races on right now it still feels like there’s a lull so it provides a moment to look at an updated version of the team victory rankings for this year and also to take stock of the transfer market which looks quieter than usual.

Will teams instead spend money on hiring staff in a bid to mimic Team Sky?

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Riders Blocked From Racing

It looks like the perfect picture for a cycling team. A smiling rider stands tall on the podium, dressed in yellow with the team logos in evidence as the girls hold their pose for the cameras. Even his sunglasses are perched just right on the team-issue baseball cap. But there’s something wrong with the picture.

I’m not talking about the composition of the image. You might notice the podium girls haven’t zipped up their jerseys fully but it’s not that. No, the problem here is that Radioshack-Nissan’s Jakob Fuglsang has won a race and bizarrely this could prove damaging for the interests of his team.

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The Transfer Season That Lasts All Year

Vincenzo Nibali

There are reports in La Gazzetta Dello Sport that Vincenzo Nibali has signed with Astana for 2013 and beyond. The Sicilian apparently has a €2.3 million contract and will move to the Kazako-Italian team with loyal helpers Alessandro Vanotti and Valerio Agnoli.

Astana needs a big signing. They have only five wins this year, although other teams would welcome two spring classics, two stages of the Giro and one in the Tour of Catalonia. Still, the team needs more points to avoid relegation troubles.

For months now Nibali has been linked to Astana but nobody can confirm any move because the rules prevent formal contracts from being signed and any related news must be kept quiet until 1 September. However Nibali is a big name rider and his move from one team to another is equivalent to a significant move on a chessboard, for rival teams must respond with their moves. The transfer of a top rider can destabilise a team and upset a sponsor. But these moves are happening right now. The transfer season lasts all year

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Rider recruitment and nationality

Cadel Evans Aussie
This guy could be from Australia

One rider agent has denounced the “dictature of UCI points” when it comes to teams hiring riders. I’ve long suggested these ranking points are important, to the point of twisting incentives within the sport. But teams will recruit for other factors too. Obviously they want to hire riders capable of winning, or if not then good helpers. There are several other factors at play here. But one is nationality. Let’s take a look.

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