One license to use, one license to kill

September 7, 2011

While we saw earlier there are reasons why mergers aren’t that common to even attempt, the real bottleneck is in the execution.

In cycling, all contracts for riders, staff and sponsors are with the paying agent, the company that holds the UCI license. You can merge those companies, but you can’t merge the licenses. This means all the talk of teams merging is really nonsense, there is no such thing in cycling. Just like teams can’t split (Omega pharma-Lotto), only one of them keeps the license. So in a merger you have to make a choice, which license do you use? This has far-reaching consequences and it all depends on the contracts.

Rider contracts are pretty standard and follow a UCI template, which states that when the paying agent loses its license, the rider is free to go elsewhere. In fact, the rules are such that a team is not even allowed to delete that clause, even if a rider would agree to it. Bottomline, every rider has this clause in their contract.

This means you cannot merge two teams and thereby bring the two groups of riders together. One of the two groups will per definition be connected to a license that is cancelled, and therefore be free to go where they please. You saw this play out with the Omega – Quickstep merger, Omega’s paying agent was trying to make the claim that it still had a contract with Gilbert for 2012, but couldn’t really push that too far because if they were indeed merged and their license was still valid, it would have meant Quickstep’s was not and all those riders would have been free to go. I would be very surprised if Gilbert paid anything to get out of that Omega contract, if he did it was either to avoid a messy break-up or because he didn’t know the rules (which I doubt).

Obviously in the Leo-Shack case, the Leopard license is the most valuable. It has the Schlecks and Cancellara tied to it. No disrespect to Horner, Brajkovic et al, but they’re not of the same importance. On top of that, inserting Bruyneel into Leopard won’t upset the Radioshack riders he’s taking with him, so there is little risk they’d “flee”.

On the Leopard side, things are less clear. Are their top riders happy about this change, did they even encourage it (as the key to future success)? Or were they taken completely by surprise and are they pretty pissed off that their idyllic family atmosphere team has been blown to pieces by Becca? So far I haven’t seen any comments from them, which makes you wonder. Obviously, if they are upset, using the Leopard license would block them from going elsewhere.

Using the Leopard license would obviously require the approval of Radioshack and Nissan to modify their contracts, and apparently Bruyneel got that.

6 Responses to “One license to use, one license to kill”

  1. Neil Says:

    I think it is also quite amusing that Riis is sat to one side, not only saying that it will be fun beating them next year, but also that he wouldn’t rule out signing back some of his old team (no doubt on reduced price contracts).

  2. Gerard,
    About the UCI rules regarding the number of riders… Do the 30 max riders take in account a potential Devo team? And if not, how many times a year a Devo team rider can integrate the “A” team for some “internship”?

    • Riders are connected to a license. So you have a WorldTour license with 25-30 riders (and you can only have more than 28 if you have at least a certain number of neo-pros).

      Then you can have a license for a development team, for example at the continental level. But riders connected to that license can not race for the WorldTour team.

      The exception is that each Fall, WorldTour teams are allowed 3 stagiaires. These three riders can come from anywhere, their own development team or a completely unrelated team, that doesn’t matter. These stagiaires can race for the WorldTour team, but ironically not in the WorldTour races only in the “lesser” races.

  3. […] One license to use, one license to kill « […]

  4. Bertux RS Says:

    I´d like to see the real situation of leo-shack or radio-pard in the three weeks boucles. Imagine tons of cyclists to fill a squad with only nine mates. That will be harsh.. But, otherwise, it can become a great opportunity for some of them, I mean.. in order to do his real events. For example, Cancella, more orientated into spring classics..

    • I’m not sure this team will be that stacked for the grand tours. You take the 2011 Leopard Tour team, eliminate O’Grady (going to GreenEdge) and Voigt (who I believe is at the end of his contract) and replace them with Horner and Kloeden. That leaves just Brajkovic to try and displace one of the other Leopard riders (presuming Popovich is going elsewhere/retiring/jailed/whatever.

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