With almost zero openings on pro team rosters and the season set to begin next week in the Tour Down Under, Vuelta winner Chris Horner and former Tour polka dot jersey champ Samuel Sanchez still find themselves locked out in the cold with no contracts.
However, Horner’s new agent Baden Cooke is taking an aggressive new approach to securing Horner a ride. Speaking to the Sydney Tribute, the former sprinter is pitching a bargain basement deal: two riders for the price of one.
“I talked to Chris and Sammy. They both understand the situation has reached critical condition and extreme measures are required,” said Cooke. “So we decided on a package deal: Horner and Sanchez for one low price. Really, it’s a steal of a deal.”
While details are sketchy, Cooke outlined a financial arrangement where both riders would be under one contract with only one rider racing at a time. “What’s cool is, say a team is doing a race in Spain, they use Sammy but if they get an invite to the US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, they take Chris. That way, they both get to ride top races and make it through the season.”
The novel approach is not without potential legal issues with the UCI. However, Cooke believes these can be quickly resolved. “The UCI wants to promote the sport — they know having the current Vuelta champ in the peloton is important,” said Cooke. “They also understand that Spanish cycling is in trouble and forcing one of their stars into early retirement ins’t a good idea. I think we can work something out.”
Until the two-for-one deal, Horner and Sanchez had few options. The Spaniard has even considered joining his compatriot Francisco Mancebo in Dubai at the Sky Dive Team and contesting lesser races such as the Tour of Dubai. For Horner, the situation appears even bleaker and other than a tenuous offer from Danish Continental squad Christina Watches, he’s had no deals on the table.
However, if Cooke is right, the bold two-for-one contract may solve two problems at once and put Horner and Sanches back in the game. “You have to be creative,” said Cooke. “It’s a buyers market and I’m just trying to restructure some things. These guys have money in the bank — they just want to ride big races. If we have to do a special offer, why not?”
According to Cooke, the two-for-one deal also cleverly sidesteps the problem of teams only having one roster spot open. “That’s the trick, right? You’re getting two riders but only one rides at a time — they’re never both racing at the same time. This gives teams a big set of tactical options to plug Chris or Sammy into the right races at the right times. It’s a win-win.”
Calls to the UCI to confirm the legality of a two-for-one deal were not returned however the governing body issued a short statement that they are aware of the contract situation and will issue a ruling shortly.