Agent To The Stars: Alex Carera Gets PEZ’d!
“I only take calls from cycling managers who are serious about what they do!” Alex Carera doesn’t mince his words; maybe that’s why Damiano Cunego, Danilo Di Luca, Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Petacchi retain him as their manager. And when Charly Wegelius changed teams recently – from Liquigas to Lotto – Alex was the man he sought out to represent him.
PEZ: How long have you been in the business?
Alex: I started in 1997 with two riders; Damiano Cunego and Roman Vainsteins. Damiano won the Junior World Road Championships in Verona in 1999, and I realised from the beginning that you must learn about the young riders who are coming up.
Carera has been with the Kid since the beginning.
PEZ: You are in business with your brother?
Alex: Yes, Johny and I both have a 50% share, but we also collaborate with others – Rolf Sorensen, for example.
We do not just manage cyclists, we look after skiers and motor sports clients too.
Alex with one of his first clients: retired ex-World Champion, Romans Vainsteins.
PEZ: Does the UCI license agents?
Alex: In 2004 I wrote to the UCI on this subject but received no reply. In 2005 we formed the International Association of Agents, my brother Johny is President. We have the approval of the Italian, French and Spanish Federations; and also the professional riders association.
Vainsteins in his prime following his World Championship win in Plouay.>
PEZ: In the 12 years you’ve been in business, what has changed most?
Alex: In the early days there were a lot of very big teams – Mapei, Telecom, Rabobank, Mercatone Uno.
Then there was the Pro Tour; it was good for the riders because the team was licenced for four years.
The current situation is not good; despite the fact that cycling is the number three sport in Europe – only behind football and Formula One – and it has good TV exposure, it’s difficult to find new sponsors.
The Carera brothers.
PEZ: Do you approach riders, or do they approach you?
Alex: In the beginning, I made the approach. But now, I think I have a good name and the riders call me.
Carera counts Hushovd as one of his clients.
PEZ: How many riders do you have on the books?
Alex: Around 40, but it’s about quality, not quantity. I have Thor Hushovd, Damiano Cunego, Danilo Di Luca, Alessandro Petacchi and Charly, of course. The other British rider I represent is Chris Froome. I take my job seriously and I speak clearly with my riders.
PEZ: Damiano is your longest standing client?
Alex: Yes, and Danilo. We have good relationships, if there are problems we talk and find solutions. Always the solution must be what is best for the rider.
Three wins and counting for Cunego at the Giro di Lombardia.
PEZ: Do you watch the amateur ranks, carefully?
Alex: Of course! There are three parts to my job – rider’s contracts; publicity for my riders; and watching the amateur scene closely. The most important races in the amateur world are the Tour de l’Avenir, the European and World Championships, the Giro delle Regioni and the Giro della Valle D’Aosta.
PEZ: As well as their contracts, do you organise rider endorsements?
Alex: Yes, the teams give us the opportunity to arrange deals for shoes and sunglasses. For example, Kim Kirchen is with Oakley sunglasses, Roman Kreuziger is with Carrera sunglasses and Danilo has a deal with Selle Italia. The rider’s image is very important.
We can expect a big year from the Killer in 2009.
PEZ: Do you have a lawyer present at contract signings?
Alex: Yes, we have our own lawyers within the company.
PEZ: Do the teams try any ‘funny business’ with contracts?
Alex: They can’t, now there is a standard UCI Pro Tour contract for all the riders. The image and sponsorship contracts are different.
PEZ: Are there teams you wouldn’t deal with?
Alex: We enjoy good relations with the teams, but I only deal with people who are serious about what they do. If someone is not serious about their business, I don’t want to talk to them.
Carera with Franco Pellizotti.
PEZ: It must be a ‘buyer’s market’ at the moment?
Alex: If you have a lot of riders available, then normally the price is low, if there are not a lot of riders available, then prices are higher – the market rules. But for the very good riders, the prices stay high. Damiano Cunego has been one of the top five riders in the world for the last five years – there are no problems for him; he has a good image and good results.
PEZ: The best part of your job?
Alex: The relationships with my riders, also when your riders win, it’s a great satisfaction.
PEZ: And the worst?
Alex: When you work hard to get your rider a contract, but you cannot.
There it is – when you make it big, now you know who to call!
With thanks to Alex for his time and courtesy.