Weekly Wibble: Silly Season
Stuff and nonsense from the week in cycling. April 16: Cycling's ridiculous transfer rules, Philippe Gilbert versus postman, Italy's awful Roubaix and more...
"Alonso said he'd pay you HOW MUCH?"
Word has it that Paolo Bettini has been chatting up potential recruits for Team Alonso at races recently, probably with a tactic as subtle as opening a suitcase of money and handing the $$$-eyed target pen and paper, if rumours of their financial muscle are to be believed.
That’s naughty, I thought. Is he allowed to do that? Shouldn’t that kind of thing be kept to hushed meetings in pre-fabricated airport Novotels?
Of course he is allowed. It’s completely normal. I’ve just been told to think it’s strange by the powers that be. As UCI’s 2.15.120 rule soberly states (*adopts nasal, nerdy tone*): “A transfer period extends from August 1 to 20 October. A UCI ProTeam may only recruit riders during the transfer period.” Even though, plainly, transfer activity is going on all the time.
It happened last week, today, and it’ll happen tomorrow. Values fluctuate with performances; riders and agents talk regularly. Contracts are completed, word gets round, done deals get published in May by the media as rumours, and tired denials are offered.
This ridiculous rule remains, even though the majority of new contracts are signed, sealed, and delivered by the time the Tour de France finishes; even though nothing would happen to the fabric of society, let alone that of the WorldTour, if transfers were announced on June 1 or July 1.
It affects the summer’s racing too. Ever wondered why a rider on one team seems to be helping another squad in a breakaway pursuit for no discernible reason? Well, occasionally, it’s because he’s already signed on the dotted line with them for next year.
The WorldTour racing calendar runs from January to mid-October. But, as soon as the Tour of Beijing is over, the circus strikes up again, with new team training camps. So why not have the season run from November 1 to October 31 each year?
But no, riders are contracted to teams (and to wearing the old garb) until midnight on December 31 when, I imagine, disgruntled, pyromaniacal riders stoke up bonfires in back gardens with their team paraphernalia (Wow! Those 900 spare autograph cards burned well) and mumble the words to Auld Lang Syne while bitterly swigging prosecco. Well, it’s that or flog all the kit on eBay.
Officially, they remain part of a team they have cut ties with months before, a team they may very well hate. If you changed job, you wouldn’t wear the old uniform or be expected to pay foot service to your former boss for two months, would you?
Aesthetics – often the victim left tearfully rocking back and forth in a corner in such affairs – suffer too. A squad with a whole bunch of new riders looks ridiculous with its mish-mash of kit colours on the winter training camp.
But, for all those flaws, at least cycling doesn’t have to put up with Deadline Day, football’s forced, occasional TV showcase. It’s mainly because contracts are cut and and shut by October (forward planning and all that) and cycling probably isn’t deemed a big enough sport anyway.
It’s a blessing in disguise. No 24-hour orgy of fabricated transfer guff, no breathless news of Christophe Crapcyclist signing for a detergent-sponsored Pro Conti team. No Dave Brailsford winding down his Land Rover window, à la Redknapp, as he leaves the Team Sky service course.
That would all be pretty undignified. So maybe there is just a glimmer of method to this transfer deadline madness.
Ever the 21st century cyclist, Niki Terpstra has only gone and uploaded his Paris-Roubaix race file to Strava.
We wonder which he will treasure more: the hulking cobble on his mantelpiece, or the six new King of the Mountain titles garnered, including the prestigious 3.4km “Roubaix Finale” sector?
13 – Number of years between Niki Terpstra’s victory and the last Dutch Classics win, courtesy of Erik Dekker at the 2001 Amstel Gold Race.
50 – Position of Italy’s highest finisher in Paris-Roubaix, Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), making it the country’s worst performance there since 1973 when not one Italian was among the 35 classified finishers. Mamma mia!
The 1987 Amstel Gold Race finale. Watch Malcolm Elliott get royally worked over by a Dutch lead group and one of the softest race-winning attacks of all time:
One of our favourites. Philippe Gilbert on a 30kg postman’s bike against a postman on a top-end BMC.
Wily veteran Alessandro Petacchi, interviewed in the forthcoming issue 46 of Rouleur, won the GP Cerami last weekend. Here he is taking a chaotic, super-long sprint in the 2007 Giro.
April 9: Braking Away
April 2: No April Fools
March 26: Vincenzo NIbali and the 43 Eunuchs
March 19: Modern Life Is Rubbish
March 12: Black on the Chaingang
March 5: Holding On
Feburary 26: True Racing Returns
February 19: Just Deserts?
Did this wibble make you wobble? Do you reckon that the UCI's transfer rules are very sensible? Got a favourite Youtube video to share? Get in touch @rouleurmagazine on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org by email.