“We do not understand the game that is currently being played.”
That was Vincent Wathelet, the manager of superstar Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert, on his confusion over whether his client is free to sign a new contract or stuck in the old one for 2012.
This seems like something Mr. Wathelet should have figured out at least six months ago. Gilbert, who has won 13 races this season, is set to make megabucks with contract offers on the table from Astana, Quick Step, BMC and the new Lotto team.
If that is, he is legally allowed to sign a new contract. This makes Wathelet’s confusion pretty scary and if we were Gilbert, we would have just terminated his services. This is your agent and manager, a guy you’re paying a big chunk of money, and yet he can’t answer the simplest business question: Am I still under contract for 2012 or not?
Some sources in the Belgian media are reporting that Gilbert still has a contract with the team’s management company BCC (Belgian Cycling Company) for 2012.
“It is a legal struggle and it makes us sick,” Wathelet told Gazet Van Antwerpen. We’d say Gilbert is going to feel more than sick if it turns out he isn’t about to hit the big payday.
This year he’s won Amstel Gold, Leige-Bastogne-Liege, Fleche Wallonne, Montepaschi Strade Bianche and the first stage of the Tour de France. That should add up to millions, if your manager knows what he’s doing.
Gilbert was looking at major dollar signs, bank vaults full of euros — except Omega Pharma manager Geet Coeman doesn’t quite see things that way. “Let’s not forget that Gilbert is still under contract with us,” Coeman told Het Laatse Nieuws. “Gilbert was a free agent if the team ceased to exist, but we are continuing.”
It’s stories like this that remind us once again that contracts in professional cycling seem to be another confusing issue that the UCI has trouble sorting out. Jonathan Vaughters of Garmin-Cervelo has been vocal about the need for new rules governing transfers. The financial shell game of who actually controls the money and contracts seems to lack transparency.
There really shouldn’t be such confusion that even Gilbert’s lawyer doesn’t know who his client has a contract with and for how long. Gilbert may be the best one day rider in the world but if he’s locked in for another year, then he’s also a big loser.