This morning’s big news story in the cycling world – Mark Cavendish looking likely to join Team Sky for 2012 – broke just hours after the sport’s governing body, the UCI, announced a planned radical shake-up of transfer rules that will allow riders under contract to change teams just days after the end of the Tour de France next month. New rules are also set to be adopted preventing teams from benefiting from world ranking points secured by riders returning from doping bans of two years or more.
The measures were proposed yesterday at a meeting in Maastricht of the Professional Cycling Council, and will be voted on today or tomorrow by the UCI’s Management Committee, which is also meeting in the Dutch city.
Contracts in professional cycling typically run from 1 January to 31 December annually, with the transfer window opening on 1 August each year, at which point announcements can be made regarding transfers for the following year.
Under the new proposals, however, riders at ProTeam or Professional Continental outfits will be able to move teams with immediate effect during an “intra-season” transfer window open from 1 to 15 August subject to a three-party agreement – presumably the two teams involved, plus the rider.
The “inter-season” transfer window – so, this year, the one relating to the teams riders will be racing for in 2012 – would be open from 1 August to 20 October, remaining in force until 31 December for those who weren’t among the 15 contributing to the team’s sporting value for the coming year.
That sporting value calculation, introduced last year, is used to rank teams and determine whether they qualify for ProTeam or Professional Continental status, the former guaranteeing entry to, and obliging them to compete in, the sport’s biggest races.
A separate measure put forward by the PCC and due to be approved on today or tomorrow by the Management Committee relates to the return of riders to the sport following suspensions of at least two years for doping to contribute to the sporting values of their teams for the two years following their return to the sport.
That measure is expected to come into force this year, and presumably is designed to reduce the incentive for teams to sign riders returning from a ban, since the fact that their results will not contribute towards the team's points total will make it less attractive to sign them.
As an illustration of how it might work in practice, Alexander Vinokourov, ultimately banned for two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after testing positive for blood doping on the 2007 Tour de France (the Kazakh national federation initially applied a one-year ban) returned to racing in August 2009.
Since then, the Astana rider has won races including a Tour de France stage and last year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege, both of which have secured both him and Astana world ranking points.
Under the new rules, however, Astana wouldn’t accrue any points whatsoever through Vinokourov until two years after the expiry of his two-year ban this July. Last year, the rider secured 283 points – more than the French team AG2R managed as a whole.
Other issues discussed included the Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian being rescheduled in the calendar next year to avoid a clash with the 2012 Olympics, and plans for the Belgian race the GP E3-Harelbeke being given a UCI WorldTour Licence next year so long as it is moved to a Friday.
The PCC also gave its backing to a new Team Time Trial to be raced at the World Road Championships from next year, in which participants will represent trade teams rather than countries.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.