The battle of the cycling agents continues, as highly touted Spanish rider Oscar Rodríguez is set to join Astana on a two-year deal.
The 24-year-old climbing sensation, who won a stage in last year’s Vuelta a España with the soon-to-close Euskadi-Murias squad, assured his spot in the WorldTour with a move to Astana, team officials confirmed Tuesday.
Earlier in the season, Rodríguez was linked to a deal with Movistar, but it appears a growing fracture between the Spanish WorldTour team and Italian agent Giuseppe Acquadro, who represents Rodríguez, may have played a role in the Astana move.
Many of Acquadro’s riders have ended up on Team Ineos or Astana; Acquadro represents many riders on the Kazakh team. Last month, El País reported of a rift between Acquadro and Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué over the contract dispute involving Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz, who is leaving Movistar to join Team Ineos in 2020.
On Tuesday, Acquadro spoke with Spanish sports daily MARCA to defend his role in the ever-competitive rider market, insisting he is only working for the good of his clients.
“Movistar has decided not to work with me, and that’s their right. So I don’t work with them either,” Acquadro told MARCA. “The riders are the ones that ultimately decide where they want to race. I work so that they get the best for them and for no one else.”
Acquadro represents many of Spain’s and Latin America’s top stars, including Egan Bernal, Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Urán and Carapaz, among many others. On Monday, MARCA cited sources in reporting that Andrey Amador, a Costa Rican on Movistar who Acquadro also represents, is set to jump ship to Team Ineos.
Acquadro said Amador’s move is not yet a done deal, but insisted he was never fully committed to Movistar despite the team announcing his continuation in July.
“Andrey doesn’t have a signed contract yet for next season. If he did, he couldn’t leave because it wouldn’t be legal,” Acquadro said. “The UCI does not allow a team to sign another rider when there is a valid contract.”
Contract conflicts are nothing new in cycling. Riders, agents and teams have long bickered over money and terms of contract conditions. Several high-profile cases lately, however, have put a spotlight on the often behind-the-scenes bartering that goes on to recruit top stars.
Just this week, Bahrain-Merida terminated the contract of recently crowned world TT champion Rohan Dennis, leading the Australian’s agent to contest the ruling to the UCI’s arbitration board. Another case involving Sam Bennett and Bora-Hansgrohe continues to play out in the UCI’s arbitration panel. Bennett wants to leave to possibly join Deceuninck-Quick-Step, but Bora-Hansgrohe contends it has a letter of intent from the Irish sprinter. Sources confirmed Tuesday the dispute remains unresolved.
“I’m trying my best to get out of Bora,” Bennett said at a press conference ahead of Sunday’s world championships. “Hopefully I should have a team by next week. But the thing is, this has been going on three months and it’s always been ‘next week, next week.’ I’m trying my best to get out, I need a change.”
Acquadro was also at the center of a disputed deal last year involving promising Colombian rider Iván Sosa, who was linked to Trek-Segafredo, but eventually landed at Team Ineos. In that case, the UCI ruled that Sosa could join Ineos instead of Trek-Segafredo.
“Carapaz was already thinking of leaving to race for another team, and even more so after winning the Giro,” Acquadro told MARCA. “I have perfect relations not only with Ineos and Astana, but with nearly every WorldTour team and in the other categories. It’s true that I work less with certain teams because I have more Latin American riders, and some of the central European teams prefer riders from their zone, like Germans, Austrians or Swiss.”
The rift between Unzué and Acquadro is playing out in many ways going into 2020. The Spanish WorldTour team is seeing an exodus of its top riders, including Quintana to Arkéa-Samsic and Mikel Landa to Bahrain-Merida. To shore up its GC hopes, Movistar has penned a deal with Enric Mas.