Eric Boyer, team manager of Professional Continental squad Cofidis, has confirmed to Cyclingnews that he will be trying to sign one or several winning riders in order to re-enter the World Tour circuit. The former ProTour team was downgraded at the end of 2009 but Boyer needs to get his squad back on top level for the sake of his sponsor, a French loan company.
"Yes, I will be looking to recruit if my riders don't win enough points to get us back to World Tour level," Boyer told Cyclingnews on Monday morning. "I understood last year that recruiting was a major key to be awarded a licence. There are certain riders out there who would get the team back into the World Tour."
Cofidis missed out on a licence at the end of last year as it was in 19th position with regards to the UCI's sporting criteria, which are based on a new rider points system that has caused much debate since it because public recently.
Boyer also pointed out several issues with the system, saying that it made life harder for a Professional Continental team to upgrade to the World Tour.
Firstly, he deplored that the UCI is apparently unwilling to send updated rider points tallies to the teams throughout the season, which would facilitate the teams' work towards obtaining a licence. "The points system is impossible to calculate, it is very complicated," he said. "I know that private companies will be offering us their services to do that, but I think that it's a pity that the UCI has people in their offices that maintain the updated tallies and that they don't want to share that information with us."
Also, he said that it will be hard for him to bring on a high-level rider to the team because the licences are awarded only at the end of the year.
"The problem is that the UCI will only grant the World Tour licences on December 10. That is very late. The riders that want to remain on the World Tour circuit will want their contracts signed much sooner. And to be honest, I don't know many high-level riders who would be willing to take the risk of not continuing in a World Tour squad!"
This means that once the transfer season begins - usually during the Tour de France - the teams will have to speculate on the points that will still be acquired during the rest of the season, and work towards securing riders that already have a good tally. "That's where it starts to become dangerous," said Boyer. "For example, a rider whose contract is running out and who has a lot of points will be able to sell himself at a very high price. It will lead to an escalation."
Also, Boyer said that the system changed the whole perspective of pro cycling for him as a team manager. "When you hire a rider, the goal is to have him win races. To set objectives, to organise a team around him. But today, when I hire a rider for a lot of money because he has a lot of points, in a way I will already have achieved what I wanted: to obtain a World Tour licence. But I always thought that my aim was to win races for my sponsor! If you sign a rider today who provides you with the licence and then he doesn't win next year - for some people, it won't matter."
Other imaginative scenarios led Boyer to questioning the points system further. "What happens if a rider who has a lot of points hurts himself badly in September and will be out of racing for a longer time throughout the next season? Does his team still get a licence?"