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August 22, 2011
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Follow The Money, A Lot Of Money
Phil Gilbert’s three year contract with BMC may be the the richest ever in the sport of cycling. According to reliable report in the Belgian media and other sources, the U.S.-Swiss outfit will be paying Fast Phil ?2.5 million base salary (excluding bonuses) through 2014, plus the BMC squad will likely pay a ?1.5 million release penalty to his current Omega Pharma Lotto’s team’s paying agent, according to the Het Nieuwsblad paper.

With Phil at ?2.5 million, Tour de France winner Cadel Evans at more or less the same level and new arrival Thor Hushovd’s BMC salary estimated to be close to ?2 million, the 2012 rider payroll for BMC could be close to ?10 million! Considering team sponsor BMC bike company is estimated to have a annual turnover of around ?10 million, where is the cash for Gilbert, Hushovd and Evans coming from? Well it so happens that BMC team and bike company owner Andy Rihs, co-founder of Sonova Holding AG, formerly know as Phonak is a multi-billionaire and can afford to pay whatever it takes to
promote his bike team.

Rihs resigned as Chairman of Sonova this March, after being caught up in an insider trading scandal, cashing in $41 million in shares in March to help finance the BMC bicycle factory, eight days before Sonova issued a profit warning. But Rihs is still worth an estimated ?2 billion and his liberal application of the long green is helping some top riders cash in. Nothing wrong with that per se, but the ripple effect of price inflation in cycling and proliferation of rich individual sponsors like Rihs makes it harder than ever for small teams with small budgets to be viable. When the UCI ProTour started in 2005, the budget level for a team averaged about ?6 million, but six years later, the price has doubled. However, with new sponsors not exactly flocking to cycling (goodbye HTC!), it enables big money men like Rihs and Russian oligarch and Team Katusha owner Igor Viktorovich Makarov to muscle in on pro cycling.

Vuelta a Espa¤a Musings Part 1: Talansky Talks
Although emerging American talent Andrew Talansky has had a great neo-pro season for Garmin-Cervelo, perhaps he has not yet learned the fundamental fact that European pro cycling is no picnic. European pro cycling is still largely a working class sport, where young riders still use their talent and determination to escape working in a menial factory job or on the farm, or given record levels of youth unemployment in Europe (20.5% of people between 15-24 are currently seeking work in the European Union) are very happy to earn even a pittance as a pro rider.

While reading Talansky’s Vuelta a Espa¤a diary I was struck by his comment “Seeing riders fight and struggle to hold onto the back of the race and then turn themselves inside out chasing alone once they are dropped is always strange to me, especially when they have absolutely no chance of a high overall placing in Madrid. In a one-day race I can understand leaving it all on the road, but when we still have 19 days of racing ahead of us it seems rather foolish.”

Perhaps Talansky doesn’t realize that these riders may not in a position where they can just do their work for the team leader and then relax, but actually have to fight hard for everything just to make it to the stage finish. Perhaps said riders are turning themselves inside out because they are on some lousy little Spanish team, getting paid minimum money (if at all) and are fighting hard to get their 2012 contract renewed. A little more respect and a little less self-entitlement, please, Andrew. Oh and good luck in your first Grand Tour; you may actually have to fight and struggle to make it to Madrid.

Vuelta Musings Part 2: Sastre Talks Too
After a disastrous start to the Vuelta a Espa¤a, veteran Caarlos Sastre lashed out at his Geox-TMC team management accordino to La Gazzetta dell Sport. The hapless Geox, which didn’t get World Tour status or an invite to the Tour de France this season had a poor performance in the Giro d’Italia. With only three wins all season, the squad is seeking some redemption in the Vuelta a Espa¤a this year.

In the Stage 1 TTT in Benidorm, Geox-TMC went backwards, finshing next to last and drawing harsh words from the 36 year old Sastre. “On a day like this, the strength, the experience and the work of a sports director is the most important thing. If everything is well organized, the second are in your favor and not against you.”, a direct criticism of Geox-TMC director Matxin Fernandez. Geox-TMC manager Mauro Gianetti fired back “We are expecting results from Sastre, not talk”

Not a great way for Geox-TMC to start their most important race of 2011.

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