• The Cycling News forum is looking to add some volunteer moderators with Red Rick's recent retirement. If you're interested in helping keep our discussions on track, send a direct message to @SHaines here on the forum, or use the Contact Us form to message the Community Team.

    In the meanwhile, please use the Report option if you see a post that doesn't fit within the forum rules.

    Thanks!

What about a UCI draft

Over the last few months there is a big discussion going on about whether there should be a budget cap to make cycling teams a bit more balanced. So I thought about different ways to achieve the same and one of the most famous ways to balance teams in pro sports is a draft, a method especially used in US sports like american football. The concept is that rookies can't choose their team but that the teams can pick their new athletes in the opposite order of the leagues result in the previous year. Therefore the worst team of the previous season can pick first, while the best team picks last.

There is a reason why the draft is almost only used in american pro sport though. This system only really works if one league has a monopoly in the sport. For example if the premiere league decides to organize a football draft, all young talented players with the chance to join a top team would simply go to a different league. On the other hand an american football player doesn't really have another option than playing in the nfl, if he wants to become a pro. Therefore despite possibly going to a team they don't like they have to be part of the draft.
Cycling is basically like the NFL. If you want to become a successful road cyclist you have to ride UCI races and join a UCI team.

That said, there are a few problems. First of all, there are not only WT teams participating in the biggest races, so you can't completely exclude pro continental teams from the draft. Then again if these teams participate in the draft some of the biggest talents would go to teams which aren't even supposed to be as good as WT teams. Moreover, since cycling is a very international sport things like a language barrier or cultural differences might be a problem. Even guys like Nibali can hardly speak English so he probably would not want to go to a completely english speaking team, but if a draft takes place guys like him don't really have a choice.

I'm sure if I think about it a bit longer I'd find even more problems, so obviously it would not be a good idea to just make a draft next year without preparing for it. But what about in 10 years. I think that if you make some changes a cycling draft could be pretty cool and help to balance the sport. Do you guys like the idea as well, or is it just me?
 
A draft's ultimate outcome is to level the playing field. Do big sponsors want that, or do they rather see a sure return on investment by building super teams? But again, free agency would still let them outspend smaller budgeted teams and outgun the little guys. From a rider standpoint, a draft would be weird...you could end up in a Spanish team (or French or whatever), not speak the language...not the best way to settle in if you ask me.
 
To me the main issue with a draft is the fact that you risk having a team consisting of a bunch of guys who just can't with each other.
I suppose in the NFL it's doable, because if the team has to win, then everyone needs to work together. However, in a sport like cycling, where a strong individualist can win by basically going against team orders, you'd risk having a team with a very interesting sense of "team-work".
 
Re:

RedheadDane said:
To me the main issue with a draft is the fact that you risk having a team consisting of a bunch of guys who just can't with each other.
I suppose in the NFL it's doable, because if the team has to win, then everyone needs to work together. However, in a sport like cycling, where a strong individualist can win by basically going against team orders, you'd risk having a team with a very interesting sense of "team-work".

Imagine Moscon getting drafted in the same team with Reza and Reichenbach.
 
The purpose of the draft is to maintain parity in a system which is at its core a closed shop. There are a fixed number of franchises, and the same teams participate in a fixed structure all year. That is simply not workable in cycling because of many factors. You have the wildcard system, which would have to be killed to make a draft achievable. You have the various warmup races and national calendar events that some WT teams participate in but others don't, the status of which would be unclear because they are outside of the WT but they are still part of WT riders' calendars.

And who's eligible for the draft? Anybody at Continental level? U23s only? What happens to somebody like Roglič or Woods who converts to the sport late? What happens to riders at ProContinental level, are they outside of the draft or do their teams get to choose in the draft? How many rounds does a draft get, because some teams simply don't need all those extra riders so would be picking people they're going to cut, just to stop others from having them?

A draft does have the benefit of preventing a situation where a moneyed team like BMC or Sky buys up all the best prospects (BMC of course have been complaining about Sky poaching espoir talents they've been developing) but it also has the flip side of killing off long-standing development teams and agreements, like the Lotto, Quick Step and Movistar feeders which have been well established and running for decades, because why invest all that effort in developing those young talents if you won't have the chance to profit from that effort?

Even more importantly, what about doping? Does a team that selects a high quality espoir that turns out to be a fraud lose that draft choice, "hey, sucks to be you!" or can they get compensatory picks like we sometimes see in the US? In a massively multinational sport, the implications of the draft are also much harder to take on board than in the US sports which generally only focus on the US system and a select number of scenes outside of that - after all, cycling teams are reliant on their sponsors who may have certain requirements when it comes to the team's identity - would the instigation of a draft then compromise the identities of historic teams like Movistar or FDJ? Remember, in sports with a draft, playing to your home market may be important, but you've got a home game every few days, or every couple of weeks in American Football. In cycling, you might have your riders performing in the home region once or twice a year, which isn't a great return on investment for sponsors. Or could riders who didn't want to relocate simply refuse to report, or would we get a confusing multiple-ownership situation like in ice hockey where a Russian player could be drafted by an NHL side, continue to play in the KHL for years with the NHL team owning the rights in North America and being able to at least attempt to call them up if desired from their Russian team even if they move between teams?

It would also require 100% full support across the board in the sport to be implementable and would require a full on divide between "these are races that the WT teams do" and "these are races that other teams do", which could well kill off many of those races since there's no closed stadia in cycling, and if the fans and TV interest isn't there for lower level races that are prevented from having any higher level entries, then the organizational costs become more than is viable to pay.
 
Nice thread, interesting discussion.

Another road block facing the sport of cycling when attempting to align it with American team sports, is that whilst it contains elements of team sport, road cycling is still first and foremost recognizable as an individual sport. It does not matter how much Lebron James dominates for the Cleveland Cavaliers; it will be Cleveland - the team - that is universally recognised as the overall winner. Whereas when Chris Froome wins the Tour De France, he wins it as a part of team Sky, but first and foremost he is the individual winner of the race.
 
I don't think draft would work well in cycling. Riders are usually far from their peak during their first pro contract, so that would not help smaller teams to compete against superteams that much, because these talented riders will be gone to richer teams after 2 years anyway, when they are starting to come really good.

Add this to the earlier mentioned language barriers and the unique nature of cycling being both individual and team sport at the same time (leadership issues etc.) and it turns out that this solution has possibly more drawbacks than advantages.
 
I can't see it working. You've got really 4 levels of teams, WT, Pro Conti, Conti, and U 23. However there are other amateur teams out there which Movistar has actually signed riders from in the past as well. The NHL has a draft, however there is an age limit there, only kids 21 and under can be drafted. Many times those kids end up drafted and then put on minor league teams. MLB has a draft which you have both high school and college kids that are part of. A kid can be drafted out of high school, choose to go to college and during those required 3 years the team that first drafted him looses the rights to him. He can then be drafted again out of college. Plus those kids drafted always go to the minors somewhere. Only the NFL and NBA use the colleges as their "minor leagues" to assess talent through and many times with basketball the summer camps is when talent is assessed. Even if you institute a draft some teams are only looking for one or two kids to sign while others may be looking for a couple more or possibly not even looking to sign any youngsters. This year Movistar signed 5 riders total. Of those 5, 3 are Spaniards, the other two are Portuguese, 3 are from U-23 teams, 1 from a Conti team and Landa. AG2R and FDJ seem to do similar things with young French riders. These 3 teams do prefer to sign riders who are from the country they are truly associated with. A draft won't make any difference to these teams and they'll just keep going back to doing what they are currently doing.
 
I think you're conflating the 2017 and 2018 signings. There's only two Portuguese on Movistar total (Bico, who signed last year, and Oliveira, who's been there a few years). This year's signings are 5 in number, but they're all Spaniards save for Eduardo Sepúlveda. Two from WT (Landa, Valls), two from Pro Conti (Rosón, Sepúlveda) and one from their own amateur team (Castrillo). Lizarte isn't a U23 team, but generally functions the same as one as it is mostly made up of young riders, and enters U23 races. Carapaz, Arcas and Pedrero were already 23 when promoted from Lizarte to Movistar; last year their signings consisted of Carretero and Carapaz from Lizarte, Bico from the U23 ranks, de la Parte and Barbero from ProConti and Bennati from WT.

Your point generally still stands; Movistar as one of the long-established teams in the péloton do like to create their own dynasties - they have a sponsor whose primary interests are Spain and Latin America which suits their rider purchasing anyway; they have their own established and trusted development sources so they don't need to go around Europe hunting people from other U23 scenes the way some teams do, and they have a tendency to play quite conservative as well - Unzué likes to have a lot of continuity, so you have quite a few riders who become part of the scenery and are Abarcá lifers, like Pablo Lastras, Txente García Acosta, José Iván Gutiérrez, Andrey Amador and Imanol Erviti - riders who may not be resigned early in the transfer window, but you know full well are going nowhere.

Ag2r and FDJ are indeed similar, as are at the ProConti level Direct Énergie; these teams have their own connected teams at the amateur or continental ranks that they use as development programmes and source their young prospects from; they trust those teams and replenish their ranks from them, knowing they will get first call on those youngsters, and because they trust the scouts there, they feel confident in assessing who is worth progressing and who isn't. Lotto-Soudal are another such team, who have their own amateur team, as are Caja Rural. Lampre/UAE have their ties to Colpack explaining why their star riders all turn pro that way as well as links to Slovene amateur teams helping explain why most Slovenian talents make it to the big time through the team that was Lampre.

At a higher level, Rabobank obviously for years had Rabo Continental and Euskaltel had Orbea; other younger teams have tried to ape this setup too, though - Astana have both Astana City or whatever the development team is called now, and Team Vino-4-Ever. Катюша used to have Itera as a formal Continental equivalent - I know they'll make overtures towards any major talent on Gazprom-Rusvelo but there isn't a formal connection there - and Sunweb had a Continental version too, while BMC had their U23 development team they've now abandoned because of riders being poached out of it.

The issue is, train the U23s too much like pros and they'll look like worldbeaters but not become them because their ceiling for improvement is limited; but it also raises their head above the parapet so if somebody wants to poach them they can, whereas teams who take their riders from established relationships with comparatively smaller teams but can integrate them in to the pro team more comfortably due to less immediate turnaround - and a couple of reliable results-getters always helps, like Movistar and FDJ can count on for example - will get the benefits of a more integrated team with a more focused identity but perhaps fewer riders that would be the 'superstar' draft choices, and the riders will be less ready to ride at the top level immediately, and require a year or two of being molly-coddled, and some teams either don't have the space to allow for a few riders to be passengers while they develop at that level, or have too much of a need in respect of riders who can help them stay at the top level under the UCI's points system to be able to afford those younger riders the time they need, so can't afford to build that connection with a smaller amateur team that will hand them riders whose performances they can trust and who fit the team's ethos, but who won't necessarily be as ready to immediately transition to the top level.
 
Libertine Seguros, TY. Yes, I did get a couple of Movistar's signings from this year and last year mixed. Sorry about that.

It also goes to show that different teams not only have different goals through out the season, but also take different approaches when signing new riders and rather they want to train/teach/develop the riders themselves or not.
Very good explanation.

It's also a why a draft just wouldn't work for cycling.
 
I’m not sure what the fuss is?
You can just have a draft for WT teams, whereby that is the only means for new WT riders (“neo pros” or some similar definition) to get on a WT roster
Transfers of riders already (or previously) at WT level can happen as per current situation before or after the draft
Then each WT team has so many draft selections as per vacancies on their roster
Prospective draftees (including ex-WT riders) must nominate for the draft- if they don’t like the chance of getting to a non-preferred team, don’t nominate and stay at lower level.
In the draft WT teams use as many of their selections as they wish – they may pass and leave vacancies on their roster
After the draft teams may fill vacancies with any rider available – exception being riders required to nominate but chose not to.

Neo pros would have standard contracts
Ex-WT riders who nominate for the draft would have the option to nominate ‘terms’.

One issue would be the ability of teams to trade picks.
Could a team with an early selection trade it to a higher-ranked team (for a rider or cash)
 
Re:

gregrowlerson said:
Nice thread, interesting discussion.

Another road block facing the sport of cycling when attempting to align it with American team sports, is that whilst it contains elements of team sport, road cycling is still first and foremost recognizable as an individual sport.

A lot of people, especially Americans (hello Jon Vaughters), seems to constantly miss out on this aspect. No casual fan cares about the teams (unless they are Euskaltel fans).
 
Re:

Koronin said:
I can't see it working. You've got really 4 levels of teams, WT, Pro Conti, Conti, and U 23. However there are other amateur teams out there which Movistar has actually signed riders from in the past as well. The NHL has a draft, however there is an age limit there, only kids 21 and under can be drafted. Many times those kids end up drafted and then put on minor league teams. MLB has a draft which you have both high school and college kids that are part of. A kid can be drafted out of high school, choose to go to college and during those required 3 years the team that first drafted him looses the rights to him. He can then be drafted again out of college. Plus those kids drafted always go to the minors somewhere. Only the NFL and NBA use the colleges as their "minor leagues" to assess talent through and many times with basketball the summer camps is when talent is assessed. Even if you institute a draft some teams are only looking for one or two kids to sign while others may be looking for a couple more or possibly not even looking to sign any youngsters. This year Movistar signed 5 riders total. Of those 5, 3 are Spaniards, the other two are Portuguese, 3 are from U-23 teams, 1 from a Conti team and Landa. AG2R and FDJ seem to do similar things with young French riders. These 3 teams do prefer to sign riders who are from the country they are truly associated with. A draft won't make any difference to these teams and they'll just keep going back to doing what they are currently doing.

Aren't U23 teams actually listed as Conti? Take Sunweb Development team; they're sorta considered the "U23" feeder-team for Sunweb, but a guy like Marc Goos - at the age of 26 - is obviously too old to be U23.
 
Re:

Bye Bye Bicycle said:
There are (few) U23 conti teams, there are a lot of conti teams without age restriction, there are U23 elite teams and elite teams without age restriction.

Strictly U23 conti teams in 2017 are/were only three teams:
Ago-Aqua Service
Axeon Hagens Berman
Rog-Ljubljana

But are there any UCI rules which prevents those teams from signing riders who are no U23? Or is it simply a decision from team management?
 
Re: Re:

RedheadDane said:
Bye Bye Bicycle said:
There are (few) U23 conti teams, there are a lot of conti teams without age restriction, there are U23 elite teams and elite teams without age restriction.

Strictly U23 conti teams in 2017 are/were only three teams:
Ago-Aqua Service
Axeon Hagens Berman
Rog-Ljubljana

But are there any UCI rules which prevents those teams from signing riders who are no U23? Or is it simply a decision from team management?
Not really, no, and teams - both Conti and amateur - enter U23 races without being U23-only teams. Take Lizarte for example, who race the Valle d'Aosta, simply not taking any of their riders of 23 or over to it. Granted, most of their riders are eligible and there's usually only a couple who are older - later bloomers or riders brought over from South America who they want to test how they adapt to Europe before risking them at a pro team such as Nicolas Sessler or Richard Carapaz - who they simply won't be allowed to enter in those races. The Continental registration however enables the development teams to enter .1 races and compete against the pros, which teams like Lizarte and Quick Step's old Beveren 2000 feeder can't, as long as they don't directly compete in the same races as the parent team (although Euskaltel and Orbea used to find a loophole to this to do with the licence-holding party) to prevent collusion.