With the coronavirus crisis putting the brakes on the pro cycling racing season, teams across the peloton are starting to feel the pinch.
So much so, some squads are reducing salaries as well as laying off and furloughing riders and staff, in order to weather the coronavirus storm.
Pro riders in the peloton are raising alarms bells about how fast some teams seem willing to pull out the scissors to trim budgets.
One of the top rider agencies in the peloton — Trinity Sports Management — sent a letter Monday morning to key stakeholders urging dialogue before more salary reductions.
“Riders want to help. They know the sport as a whole is in trouble,” the letter stated. “They know teams and sponsors are facing extremely difficult times. However, they want to be involved in an open and transparent conversation about how they can help, and they want transparency around how any potential sacrifice(s) by them will be used to help the team(s).”
According to Trinity, the letter was written on behalf of the professional riders represented by the firm.
The letter — which VeloNews reviewed Tuesday — was addressed to the UCI and Velon, as well as members of the team’s association AIGCP, and the riders’ group CPA.
It suggests that riders should have a seat at the table as teams consider slashing costs as well as making calendar adjustments in light of a wave of race cancellations.
Over the past week, two WorldTour teams took the axe to their budgets. Lotto-Soudal reduced salaries for its riders and management — which the team said was voluntary — while letting go its mechanics, soigneurs, bus drivers, and other temporary basis contracted workers. On Tuesday, media reports said Astana also slashed salaries by 30 percent, a move that comes after the team had trouble meeting payroll earlier this season.
In Spain, second-category Burgos-BH told its 20 riders and six staff members to file for temporary unemployment benefits, AS reported. Other teams are expected to follow.
The cracks in budgets reveal how tenuous things are for some teams in the wake of the sudden and unprecedented stop across the peloton.
Though title sponsors underwrite most budgets, teams are losing WorldTour start money, as well as missing out on other secondary income. Deceuninck-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere estimated the racing stop has already cost his team $500,000.
Another wrinkle facing teams is that each is structured a bit differently. Some sponsors own the teams outright, while others receive monthly or quarterly installments from a collection of sponsors to cover salaries and costs.
As a result, some teams in the peloton are on solid financial footing, while others are suddenly scrambling
Sources told VeloNews that representatives from WorldTour teams held an emergency meeting last week to consider how they can face challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis. Among the considerations would be a peloton-wide salary reduction and other solutions under respective national bailout programs. Teams have also requested to the UCI to provide flexibility in its rulebook and any upcoming payments. Another idea would be tap some money from the UCI emergency fund, reportedly as high as 1 million euros.
Caught in the middle are the riders, who are seeing their contracts being trimmed without having much of a say.
Andrew McQuaid, director at Trinity Sports Management, said he hopes his firm’s letter sparks more dialogue between all the sport’s major stakeholders.
“The riders realize this is a serious problem, and they want to be part of the solution,” McQuaid told VeloNews. “They want to have a voice in what’s an unprecedented crisis.”
McQuaid said riders are willing to do their part to help their respective teams. Many riders stepped up to race Paris-Nice earlier this month under controversial conditions at the insistence from teams when many were worried about coronavirus, not only for their own health, but those of their families and communities.
McQuaid also said any contract adjustments should come with a guarantee that teams will give first preference to riders who are in contract years. Another concerns is how money would be spent if salaries are to be reduced — would they be used to help cover salaries of contract workers, such as bus drivers and soigneurs, or be used to ease pressure on title sponsors?
“There are solutions, and we want to work with the teams,” McQuaid said. “If racing into November is part of the answer, then riders will be open to it. They just need a voice in the practicalities of that. They are not machines and their physical limits need to be respected, and listened to.”
The UCI and AIGCP did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon. Click here to read the complete letter.