The Omega Pharma-QuickStep team confirmed to Cyclingnews that it is interested in signing Alessandro Petacchi as a lead-out man for Mark Cavendish, but UCI rules could delay the move or even stop it all together.
Petacchi ended his contract with the Lampre-Merida team last week, announcing he needed to take a break from racing. However, he hinted he would be interested in taking up a lead-out role in the swansong of his career. He was immediately linked to Omega Pharma-QuickStep after the Belgian team struggled to provide a consistently strong lead-out train for Mark Cavendish.
However, it seems that current UCI rules make it impossible for teams to recruit new riders during the season.
"We'd be interested in signing Petacchi but it's not clear if he can join our team. We held some explorative talks but they went no further," Alessandro Tegner, the Omega Pharma-Quick Step press officer, told Cyclingnews.
It has been suggested in the Belgian media that Petacchi has already trained with Omega Pharma-QuickStep and that he was already using a Specialized bike. Tegner denied this.
"He didn't train with us in Montechiari, that's completely false," he said.
Tegner did not specify the problems but Cyclingnews understands that the UCI is against allowing mid-season team changes to stop the development of a rider transfer market and problems following the transfer of rider's points.
Under UCI rules, rider recruitment is only allowed from August 1-15. The end of season, end of contract period runs from August 1 to December 31.
Rule 2.15.120 specifies: "A UCI ProTeam or licence applicant may only recruit riders during the transfer period. For the purposes of this article «recruit» shall be deemed to mean concluding a contract with a rider to ride for the UCI ProTeam or licence applicant’s team."
However a conflicting rule (2.15.121) states that riders 'with no contractual links to a team may be recruited outside the applicable transfer period."
The UCI has yet to confirm which rule is valid.