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Money Matters

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Euro-bag_mediumSince the transfer season is the biggest story in our summer doldrums period, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at team budgets. Unfortunately, I don't have the resources of a government intelligence agency at my disposal -- at best, I might be able to round up all the hockey and basketball bloggers on the SBN network and launch a concerted emailing campaign... but this wouldn't be easy, and still might not unlock the secrets of Professional Cycling w/r/t team budgets. So the big enchilada of caveats... I am not sure anyone outside the teams really knows what these budgets are. Well, except the UCI, but their preferred method of distributing information is in vague formulas described with indecipherable generalities. So salaries are up 30 percent over the last six years, and the lowest salary in cycling is €27,500. [And am open to guesses as to who we think the lowest man on the totem pole is!] Whoop-de-doo.

Anyway, someone on the Saxo Bank forum tried to work up comprehensive estimates of all teams in 2008:

Quickstep..............: €13.3
Caisse d'Epargne....: €12.2
Rabobank..............: €11.3
Astana..................: €11.2
Liquigas................: €10.9
CSC-Saxobank......: €10.5
Columbia..............: €10.5
Silence-Lotto.........: €10.5
Lampre................: €9.5
Euskaltel...............: €9.5
Milram.................: €9.3
Gerolsteiner..........: €8.8
SDV (Skil Shimano)..: €8.8
AG2R...................: €8.2
Credit Agricole.......: €8.0
Bouygues Telecom: €7.5
Cofidis.................: €7.5
Garmin-Chipotle....: €7.2
Française des Jeux: €7.1

This person won the "Golden League Fantasy Game," which is more than I can say, so take these numbers for what they are. A few other factoids from the reported world...

  • Katusha's budget exceeds €15 million. Rumors had it as high as €25 before the season, though that doesn't appear to be the case.
  • Riis gets something in the neighborhood of €7.3mil from Saxo Bank and another €4mil from Specialized.
  • Euskaltel have publicly commented that they have a budget of €6.8mil for 2009.
  • Team Sky will have a budget somewhere between €6 - €33 million. That upper figure, if it's accurate, may be over a couple seasons, but as usual details are hard to come by.
  • The Times of London estimated that Team Radio Shack will have a budget of $20 million... and TRS's website reprinted the article without comment.

Anyway, chasing the exact numbers may be an exercise in futility. The more important point is to get an idea as to who is relatively better off than the competition, and might therefore have some greater weight in the transfer game. These various tidbits suggest that Katusha is the biggest player, with Quick Step and Caisse d'Epargne generally being in the upper class, followed by a spate of comparably budgeted teams in Rabo, Leaky, Saxo, Columbia and somehow Silence-Lotto. Astana are listed in there but their future budget may be an entirely different story. Future teams Sky and the Shack are similarly unknowable, though rumored to be strong buyers. As for the working poor, don't expect big signings at French outfits like Bweeg, FDJ or AG2R anytime soon... but the Contador-to-Garmin rumors suggest that in this one case the list may be way off.

As usual, CQRanking.com are utterly indispensible in digging for information, as their searchable transfer database is not to be missed. Using the same info in a perhaps-handier form is the one-stop shopping Wielerflits list. From these sources we can see that the following teams are the biggest buyers:

  • The new teams Sky and Shack, for obvious reasons. The Shack will start with the Postal/Disco/Astana Alumni crew, but after getting the band back together, we shall see. Every Brit ever has been linked to Sky, along with every Irish rider and half of the Scandinavians.
  • Astana, for nearly as obvious reasons (though they will retain a lot of Kazakhs and not sure who else)
  • There may be a bidding war in France, as Agritubel is shutting down and setting Brice and Romain Feillu free, along with David Le Lay, Sylvain Calzati and the iconic Christophe Moreau. Cofidis and FdJ seem to have a large number of roster spots up in the air.
  • Lampre and Liquigas have a lot of decisions to make, though Ballan's return to Lampre probably locks up a lot of their potentially available cash.
  • Katusha are still the Yankees of the transfer market, very active and well-funded, though the bigger picture can be a little hard to decipher. In any event, they will be losing a fair number of guys, so J-Rod isn't likely the last splashy pickup they make.
  • Caisse d'Epargne... CQ puts a lot of guys in the "stay or out" category, which might just mean we don't know, or that their contracts are up. In any event, I wouldn't say for sure that they will be big players, but they're definitely a team to watch. Certainly as long as Contador is on the market. Here's a rumor I'll start: they let J-Rod go to clear some cash off the books for the Accountant! May or may not be true... and doesn't square with some analysis from the J-Rod thread. But you can't stop a good rumor.
  • Fuji-Servetto are even more volatile, and not exactly out of cash. Sleeper!
  • CQRanking seems to have a lot of moves at Columbia, stating as done a Hincapie-to-BMC deal. I can't find anything on that, nor am I certain that Lovkvist and Boasson Hagen are off to Sky, but they do have another boatload of talented guys coming in (Velitses, Bakelandts, Gieselinck, Van Garderen) so it wouldn't shock me.

That's all I got for now. Don't mean to hijack the dicussion below, but I thought it called for a more general thread.