After a three-year hiatus from the men's WorldTour, James Shaw is set to be announced by one of the top teams in the peloton in the next few days but what's unusual above the move is that Shaw secured the contract without the help of an agent or representation.
The overwhelming majority of male riders – and a growing proportion of their female counterparts – have agents to manage their contracts and futures. Shaw, who has raced at Continental level this year for Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling, has negotiated and secured his own contract.
The British rider explained his experience when it came to finding a team.
"I'm self-represented, so I don't have a manager and I do everything myself. The ball has always been in my court and to try and sell yourself without results is difficult," he told Cyclingnews.
After a strong year with the now-defunct Riwal team in 2020, Shaw moved back to Britain where he signed a one-year deal with Ribble Weldtite.
It didn't take long for him to make an impact, taking fifth overall in the Tour of Slovenia where he battled alongside Tour de France start Tadej Pogačar for the overall honours. Another fifth place in the Tour of Norway followed in August and after months of searching for a WorldTour team, Shaw had generated enough interest.
"Slovenia certainly started that snowball effect and it's gone from there. I've always had contacts in the past with various other teams. There were aspects of representing myself that I did and didn't enjoy but Slovenia strengthened my CV and then Norway just knocked the nail home," he said.
"I'd literally get back from a race and pick up the phone. I'd say: 'It's James here, I've emailed you my results, can I have a place?' It was literally as simple as that.
"I'd like to think of myself as quite a straight-talking person. So, I'd just ring them and ask if they're interested or not. If they weren't then I'd just cross them off my list and crack on. I didn't really know what I was doing, although I did negotiate my contract at Riwal, it was just the comfort of knowing that things were being done."
Shaw had previously worked with an agent when he was promising U23 rider but the problem he and many other riders face is that if there were no standout results or if the contract being negotiated was substantial then the agents would naturally concentrate on their biggest and most important clients.
When Shaw's deal at Lotto Soudal came to an end in 2018 he found himself with few results and even fewer prospects and that experience galvanised him to take his future into his own hands.
"So many agents are up to their neck in riders, and they don't have time to take on another rider. A lot of them are fully booked and I couldn't really afford to wait so I had to do it myself. I was 25 this year and if I'd left it another year, then every year it gets a bit harder to get into the pro ranks because everyone wants young riders. You see it at Ineos. They've got rid of some of their senior roles in exchange for riders like Ben Tulett and people like that."
Despite a highly competitive market, Shaw received a number of positive responses from the WorldTour teams with plenty of performances directors, managers, and owners sending him direct responses.
They weren't always of a positive nature with some teams already full or deciding to look in other directions, but Shaw built up a number of relationships before exploring a particular path with one of the biggest WorldTour teams.
"I had a lot of responses and I got to know a lot of team managers. A lot of mutual respect was built up and I think that they respected that I'd done it myself and that I wasn't reliant on anyone else. If they weren't interested, then at least they'd reply to me directly. It was certainly a good experience."
In June of this year, Shaw explained that his previous stint in the WorldTour between 2017 and 2018 had been a scaring experience and stunted his development as a rider.
He called the WorldTour "an industry, not a sport". Three months on from that interview and Shaw is set to return to the top tier of racing. The team he has been linked to and signed for will give him the flexibility and bandwidth to both challenge him and harness his qualities.
"The team is right for me. I had an experience at Lotto that wasn't right for me. Things didn't stack up there and it felt more like an industry than a sport but speaking with guys for next year it felt like the mentality and environment would suit me. It felt like I could get comfortable and that I could help the other riders on the team as much as they could help me," he explained.
"At Lotto, I felt like another number or rider. I didn't feel valued. It felt like Soudal wanted a British rider, so they just moved me up from the development team.
"Next year it feels like the right move, the right people, and the right time. I can't wait."
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.