Wednesday, October 27, 2021
HomeStoriesEntrepreneurs on the Saddle - an extract from "The Cycling Professor"

Entrepreneurs on the Saddle – an extract from “The Cycling Professor”

-

Entrepreneurs on the Saddle” is the first of several excerpts from my book “The Cycling Professor“, to give you a flavour of the topics I discuss in it. Thanks to the guys at VeloVeritas for the opportunity to do this.

In this extract, which is a short chapter about my idea that professionals cyclists are essentially entrepreneurs, with a product to market that is at once time-limited, unique and fragile – themselves.

I explain that despite being employed by a team, most riders have to organise their finances themselves – things that regular employees take a little for-granted such as health insurance, pension contributions and savings plans.

I hope you enjoy the chapter “Entrepreneurs on the Saddle“.

Marco Pinotti
Marco at work on his trusty Macbook.

During the cycling season, it is officially forbidden to sign contracts with another team before September.

But already from the start of the Giro d’Italia, however, the first approaches between riders, or their agents, and team managers begin.

July, with the Tour de France in full swing, and August are the hottest months for the transfers.

No one wants to be without a team by September, when managers have by then sorted their budgets and the main resources have already been allotted.

The hottest topic during those weeks is therefore the renewals of contracts and movements in the various teams.

* * *

Seasonal contracts

In a world where the economic situation is certainly not one of expansion, professional cycling is going through a difficult period as well. Smaller entities find it harder to survive and for some riders it is not easy to find a place at a time when many teams are reducing their workforce.

Cycling is an incredibly precarious job, and it has been this way for long before the protests of other precarious workers filed the pages of newspapers (in Italy, precari are temporary contract workers).

In most cases, contracts have durations of one or two years.

Even the top names don’t have certainty of renewal; on the one hand the salary can double within a year in the face of good results, on the other, with a season below expectations, your salary can be downgraded at the drop of a hat.

For instance, let’s look at a typical Italian rider. With most of the Italian teams registered abroad, there is no obligation to comply with the law 91/1981 which regulates clubs: in this way no contributions to Enpals (the state pension) are paid to the rider and the rider himself cannot do so voluntarily except in special cases.

There is no redundancy fund and no social security. That has to be done by the individual through private pension schemes.

As a partial answer to these problems, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has established a Solidarity Fund, financed by a percentage of the prize funds from all races on the calendar, which ensures a rider who has been professional for at least five years, something in the region of €12,500 as a form of redundancy at the end of his career.

Entrepreneurs on the Saddle
Contracts is a specialist area, which is why many riders feel they need representation.

For those with less than five years service, and there are lots of them, they do not receive any severance pay.

In short, the profession is not very protected.

It used to be, at least in Italy, but, for the reasons mentioned earlier, many of the rights for which we fought in the past are now only nominal.

Guarantees protected by law are secured in times of economic expansion and in a completely different reality.

Now, many team are more competitive on costs, because they are facilitated by the legislation of their countries.

Either these countries adapt to the old system, which is very unlikely, or we all have to adapt to their new ways. The best solution would be a halfway point…

* * *

Entrepreneurial risks of a cyclist

A cyclist, before understanding if the bike can be a source of income, has to wait until he’s at least twenty-one, twenty-two, with the risk of not being able to become a professional by then, or even worse, to become one and after two or three years to be without a team.

The commitment that is required for training and adequate rest leaves little room for studying or to pursue other careers as an alternative.

In practice it’s like investing in a business (the rider is a true entrepreneur of himself) where the risks are not little. Among these risks, is the failure to launch the company (failing to become a pro), or having to stop in advance for inability or too much competition.

In any case, sooner or later all careers end, and when it happens, it’s time to think about life after cycling.

A percentage of riders remain in the racing scene, in technical roles (team manager, mechanic, masseur), others find employment with companies in the sector, building on the experience in the field. But many will have to start from scratch at an age when they have family and many responsibilities.

It would be wise to prepare for retirement by thinking about it in advance, but it is not something hat everyone can plan, because sometimes it is a choice imposed by others or somewhat “unexpected”.

An athlete on retirement, however, carries a baggage of skills (flexibility, autonomy, spirit of sacrifice, the same qualities that allowed him to become a professional in the first place) and experience that can be used to face challenges in other jobs.

Buy Marco’s book for your Kindle device or app on Amazon,
or why not treat yourself to the printed paperback version in Italian.

Marco Pinottihttps://veloveritas.co.uk
Marco is an Italian road racing cyclist for UCI ProTeam BMC Racing Team. He is a specialist in the individual time trial, in which he is a five-time Italian Time Trial Champion (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010). Marco has won several stages of the Giro d'Italia, and has worn the famous maglia rosa, the leaders jersey, for several days.

Related Articles

Flavio Zappi – “I don’t want my team to settle for average!”

‘You need to talk that Flavio Zappi boy, his lads are racing all over Europe and getting good results!’ As often happens with VeloVeritas it’s our spiritual guide and fiercest critic, Viktor who gives us inspiration on who we should be speaking to. But there’s also the aspect that QuickStep new recruit James Knox, who we interviewed earlier in the year was a ‘Zappi Man’ so yes, times we had a word with Sen. Zappi.

Aldo Sassi – Our 2009 Interview with the Late, Great Coach

In these times devoid of racing it’s that much harder to produce content so we look back at work we’ve done in the past for inspiration. A decade ago I was fortunate to get an introduction from professional - and now DS with EF – Charly Wegelius, to the late, great, Aldo Sassi one of the most respected coaches of his generation.

Marco Pinotti – “The Cycling Professor”, This is His Story

Italian professional Marco Pinotti's new book, "The Cycling Professor" isn't so much a classic biography as a collection of anecdotes and experiences.

Davide Rebellin – “It is a wonderful opportunity and a privilege to be a professional cyclist”

A few weeks ago I posted on social media a picture of Davide Rebellin in his new Sovac-Natura4ever team strip for 2018; his 27th season as a professional. I commented that he was a ‘remarkable man.’ Immediately I was informed that I was, ‘glorifying a doper.’ When I responded by asking how he was any different to the pundits, TV commentators, self-styled fashion gurus and authors who have all fallen foul of the testers but are now accepted by the cycling community - no one could tell me. Former ‘cross star Barry Davies suggested that I organise an interview with the Italian; ‘good idea,’ I thought to myself.

Giacomo Nizzolo – Strong Start to 2020 Before Lockdown

The Giro, the final Stage 21 into Torino, Trek’s Giacomo Nizzolo avoids the late crash and takes the stage – the judges think differently though and declasse him to 12th with German, Niklas Arndt given the victory. Dave and I were ‘barrier hanging’ in the finish straight and it looked like a sound win to us – but those UCI guys...

Flavio Zappi – Helping His Riders Cope with Covid and Brexit

Flavio Zappi plays down his own career on the bike but in a time and place where it was hard to get a pro contract and then sometimes even harder to achieve contract renewal after one season, if the results weren’t there or your face didn’t fit, he rode numerous seasons at the highest levels of Italian cycle sport.

At Random

Danny Clark – the Six Day Legend has breakfast with us

My buddy, John Hardie is a 65 time Scottish grass track champion; his hero 'back in the day' was Danny Clark. When he heard that 'Six Day King' Danny Clark and me were breakfasting together at Copenhagen, it wasn't long before the email arrived with the questions he wanted me to ask the great man.

Toby Perry – Four Wins in Spain, and Counting…

When Jos Ryan of the David Rayner Fund gets in touch then we know it’s not just to ask how we are. ‘Have you been keeping up with our rider, Toby Perry’s performances in Spain, he’s just had his second win?’ Fortunately for us, we could reply in the affirmative.

Tour de San Luis – Stage One

Well, I've never seen anything like that before... I'm at the Tour de San Luis and it's amazing. Not the Tour of Britain, not even the “Granda­ssima” (Volta a Portugal). Maybe only the opening of the Tour of Spain in Seville a couple of years ago was up to the scale of this “small” event here in the middle of Argentina.

Mason Hollyman – Looking for a Stage Race Podium with Israel Cycling Academy

We were looking at the result of the u23 Trofeo Piva in Italy, recently to see how Flavio Zappi’s boys had done when a name caught our eye; in 11th spot was a certain Mason Hollyman [Israel Cycling Academy] with a little union jack beside his name. Best ‘have a word’ with the 20 year-old gentleman from the rugby Heartlands around Huddersfield and Wakefield, we thought to ourselves.

Are we ready yet? Are we ready yet? Can we start yet?

Are we ready yet. Two days out from the start of the Tour. The whole team has arrived at the hotel, and the Show is about to begin! It's very exciting, but not much is really going on.

Matt Bottrill – National Champion and Record Breaker Joins the Legends

We can’t keep up with that man Matt Bottrill – but then not many can - no sooner had the ink gone dry on this interview we did with him after he won the 25 champs than he’d won the 10 mile champs in the second fastest time ever (17:40) and then added the ‘blue riband’ - the 25 record with 45:43 to join Bonner, Engers, Boardman and Hutchinson as a TT ‘legend.’