UCI to tighten rider transfer regulations
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Friday, January 22, 2010

UCI to tighten rider transfer regulations

by VeloNation Press at 10:51 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

After an off-season full of mind numbing transfer speculation, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has decided it is time to tighten up the regulations with respect to rider transfers between teams.

The two most significant transfers this past winter were Australian Cadel Evans' move from Silence-Lotto to the American BMC Racing team, and Bradley Wiggins' tug-of-war episode which sent him from the Garmin-Transitions team to the new British Team Sky.

While Evans' move to BMC Racing was shocking, it was done completely on the level with an existing "buy out" clause in his contract. The clause was agreed upon by both parties, so its execution, while surprising, did not require any heavy legal maneuvering by the newly crowned World Champion.

However, UCI President Pat McQuaid feels differently of Team Sky principal David Brailsford's dealings with Jonathan Vaughters' Garmin-Transitions team. At the time Vaughters said that the pressure being put on the team by Team Sky to recruit the Briton wasn't worth the energy it would take to fight. He also said publicly that something needed to be done to prevent the situation from happening in the future.

McQuaid said he heard the rumblings of disapproval about what had transpired and it's now time to act.

"Because of what other people feel was fairly harsh and businesslike work of Sky in trying to get exactly the riders they want, maybe we should tighten up the regulations in relation to transfers," McQuaid told AFP.

"That's something we are working on at the moment."

Team Sky's multi-million dollar budget is Brailsford's means to produce Britain's first Tour de France winner within five years, and with his fourth place overall finish in last year's race, he moved straight to the top of their priority list.

To make matters more complicated, Team Sky also strong-armed the Russian Katusha team into releasing British rider Ben Swift a year early from his contract. Team manager Andre Tchmil was very critical of the situation, with it coming to a head after an early release of the Team Sky Tour Down Under roster with Swift's name included. To his credit, Brailsford insists he didn't realize he had another year left on his contract with the team.

"There's no panacea for it because if a new team comes into the market...as with Sky last year, they've got to get 25 to 30 riders and most of them are already on a contract of one form or other," explained McQuaid.

"It's difficult for them to come in at a good level and just take the available riders who are already at the end of a contract."

While he didn't detail any of the measures being considered, he acknowledged that recent events had shaken up the "small family" sport. The current system where both teams need to come to an agreement before a rider can move needs a bit of tweaking.

"We probably do need slightly tighter controls and regulations on the transfer system," he said.

"That's something we are looking at at the moment because this past winter there have been several controversies in relation to transfers."

It remains to be seen whether the actions taken by the Team Sky back office will cause any problems tactically on the road in 2010, but it's safe to say they won't likely get any favors from the Garmin-Transitions or Katusha teams.


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