PEZ Talk: Velofutur Riders’ Agents
Agents, we hear a lot about them – but what do they do actually do? PEZ recently spoke to Spanish agency, Velofutur about how they fit into the jigsaw of pro cycling and just what it is that they do.
PEZ: How long has Velofutur been in existence?
The CEO of Velofutur, Juan Campos, has been working as a rider agent for 15 years. But Velofutur was built only three years ago.
We wanted to create a new and wider concept, namely a global company of services for professional cycling. We mean global because we are working for riders but also for teams and races. And we mean global because we work all over the World.
PEZ: How many are in the agency?
We don’t have a lot of people working directly in Velofutur. But we have a strong group of direct collaborators. We have a delegation of Velofutur in Japan (for Asia); another one in South Africa (for Africa) and another one in Switzerland (for middle Europe).
Also, we work with a journalist, a lawyer, a fiscal adviser, and even specialists in computer science. We are always open to grow and add new collaborators.
The big boss of Velofutur, CEO Juan Campos
PEZ: What’s the background of those in the agency?
The CEO of the company is Juan Campos. He was a professional team director of Kelme-Xacobeo and Santa Clara. But as we explained before, we are working with different specialists: marketing, economics, computer science, journalism, etc.
PEZ: Have you all sat the UCI’s exam?
Two people from the company sat the first exam of the UCI: Juan Campos and Lorenzo Ciprйs. Both of them passed the exam and we got the homologation of the UCI.
One of Velofutur’s big clients is Rui Costa, seen here time trialling his way to overall victory in this year’s Tour de Suisse.
PEZ: How many riders do you look after – can you give us some names, please?
You can check the full list of riders on our website: www.velofutur.es
– you’ll find the likes of Rui Costa, Tomasz Marczynski and Ruben Plaza.
Next season we will have more than 30 riders in World Tour and professional teams. But that figure is not important.
For Velofutur the most important thing is to develop the potential of all and each one of these riders. All of them are important to us. It is obvious that there are big names; but we invest a lot of time in the not so famous riders.
Last season our biggest name was Rui Costa; he finished top 10 in the World Tour Ranking and he is still very young. If you check our list, more than 50% of the riders are under 26.
We are proud of this detail and it shows that Velofutur is not only a name, it is a philosophy too: Velo (global concept about the bike and not only the rider) and Futur(e).
As the Spanish writer Unamuno said; ‘we are worried about the future because it is the place that we will live the rest of our lives.’ We are worried for the future of the cycling, and we are trying to add our energy in the right way. And working with young talents is the perfect way to try to change our sport.
Tomasz Marczynski is perhaps not a well known name amongst cycling fans but he is a seriously strong rider – seen here at the Vuelta finishing ahead of Robert Gesink.
PEZ: What does an agent actually do for a rider?
The obvious answer is to look for a team and to achieve a contract (a team as well as cycling shows, sunglasses, etc.) In general, agents can negotiate with many more teams than a rider, and can get better sportive and economic deals. Also, agents usually have a lot of experience; they can share it with the rider to make a better choice.
Our goal is not to get just the best offer or just choose the best team. Every rider is different, and every team is different. So our goal is to find the best team for each rider. We try to get several offers, and then we study them to understand their advantages and disadvantages.
We advise the rider, but he has the last word. Moreover, our task is not reduced to just signing the contract. We provide guidance through all the season. And if the potential of the rider is not being fully expressed, we talk to the team managers to find a better way. There are a lot of companies very good at negotiating all these contracts.
But again, we think in a global way, we support the rider – and the person behind. So, the most important thing is to achieve that the person and the rider will develop all of his potential. Specially, we try to be close to the person and the rider in his bad times. In the good times there are too many people around the riders . .
The most important thing is to have someone to support you when all is not working as well as you hope.
PEZ: What do you look for in rider?
Talent. The most important thing is to detect the talent of the rider.
Our speciality is to work with young talents. Normally, we don’t sign old riders; we prefer to start the task when a rider is under 23 and finish when he stops his cycling career. For instance, Adriбn Palomares is 36 years old and has been working for 18 years with Juan Campos.
It shows that we are not only a manager of one rider, we are a member more in his family. And he is a member of our family too.
PEZ: What is the attitude of the teams to agents?
It depends on the team and it depends on the manager too. But we can say that we don’t have any problem with any team.
We intend to work being as polite and transparent as possible – we need the teams. And this is not a war; team against agent – that is not our view. If you sign a contract but the team doesn’t think that it is a good agreement, it is not a good agreement for the rider, because you will have problems in the future.
Our experience with the teams is very positive. Also, we think that teams are step by step understanding that Velofutur is a perfect company to find good talents. And there are more and more teams asking us for our riders to develop their teams.
It is another one of our mentalities: we don’t think short term. Our philosophy, Velo-Futur, requires us to think medium and long term, and the teams are happy with this mentality.
PEZ: What is the attitude of the UCI to agents?
We have a good relationship with the UCI. We don’t agree to the UCI in some details; for example, we think they must give more facilities to the agents in the World Championship.
But we think that UCI is working fine most of time. The biggest problem of the UCI is that they don’t explain well their projects, and it is always easier to criticize than to build. But if cycling has problems, everyone of us should engage in self-criticism. The easy option is to say that all our problems are due to the UCI – but the UCI is not taking doping products.
All of us have our part of responsibility. And all of us must think about what we can do to change it. It means teams, riders, agents, race organizers – and UCI, of course. But we don’t like what we see with those parties who prefer looking outside rather than looking inside.
PEZ: What has the Lance Armstrong affair done to the market?
The Armstrong affair exploded when the rider market was mostly finished for the season, or at least when the big contracts were closed. But we are not worried about the Armstrong’s affair.
We are more worried about Ferrari’s affair and the Padova investigations. We hope that the Italian justice can offer the list of clients of Ferrari as soon as possible, and not just before a big race. And we need a quick system of suspensions – justice must be quick.
We cannot stand for years and years to know if a rider must be suspended or not. And as we said before, discovering that some riders kept working with Ferrari indicates that the UCI is not the guilty party. Those riders have shown a structural problem in cycling. And it shows that there are still stupid people in the bunch.
PEZ: The UCI points issue – what would your solution be?
We want to have the best teams in the best races but how must we decide which the best teams are? It is obvious – we need a system of points. That’s why, there are no doubts we need a system of points and the UCI is implementing one with good and bad decisions. We think that the UCI system is good, but they could change some details.
For example, we think that it is better that the points of the teams should be restricted to 10 riders, and not 12 (the current UCI regulation) or eight (the possible future UCI regulation).
Also, we think that the one-day races should have fewer points than they have currently. There are some other small details that we would like to change. But we understand that there is no perfect point system.
In addition, the points become the easy excuse for team managers, agents, and riders. When a rider is left out, it is very easy to say that the problem is the system of points. But it is not usually true. We must be honest; with the current regulations only 12 riders add points to the teams, so World Tour teams can have up to about additional 15 riders without points. But as usual, the easiest option is to point to the others and not look at ourselves.
PEZ: What do you think of the situation where teams leave it very late to tell riders that they are not retaining them?
The rules set a deadline for it and I think there are not usually big problems with this point.
When a team says in October that they don’t have a place for your rider, it is because either the team lied to you or you did not get any other option for the rider and you were waiting until the last minute. If you have good opportunities, you must sign the rider with another team before October.
It can happen that a team says it is going to sign a rider and finally it doesn’t offer a contract – but it’s not usual. It happens most that you don’t have another options and you have no other option than waiting until last minute. The problem is not that the team told you too late, it is that you had no other option.
PEZ: What do you think about teams which you may say are ‘rich man’s toys?
It is not a problem of cycling, but a feature of most sports. If you check football or NBA, there are a lot of teams like those.
Cycling is not in a position to say no to investors, they must be welcome. Cycling is well protected against the usual financial problems in other sports; unlike other sports, we have bank guarantees. For instance, if a team does not have a sponsor then it must guarantee the whole annual budget.
Cycling is more serious than football, for example, bank guarantees avoid a rich investor leaving in mid season, leaving a lot of debts. So, rich men are welcome!
A certain rich man with a certain Tour winner.
PEZ: What do you think about teams which are very closely allied to the national federations?
It is the same idea – they are welcome. We cannot say no to anyone interested to enter cycling with money, reliability, and seriousness.
But accepting teams linked to federations can create another type of problems – for example, national federations are the first responsible in the fight against doping, and if they are in charge of the team .
PEZ: What do you think about ‘Mondialisation?’
“Mondialisation” is in the DNA of our company. We are not a Spanish company. We are a global service company with Spanish riders, of course, but with many riders from other countries.
For example, less than 30% of our riders are Spanish. And we are working hard with riders from Asia, Africa, and America. That’s why, we cannot be against the Mondialisation – we believe in it!
The UCI is working in this way and this is a right way. Cycling must grow – we cannot be just a European sport, we must be a global sport. This is one of the strong points of cycling. Football is a big sport in a lot of countries, but the Champions League is only known in Europe. And the Copa Libertadores is only known in America. We must work to develop our sport in all the continents; Africa, America, Asia, Oceania, and Europe.
Also, we are absolutely sure that the future of the cycling is in Africa but it needs about 10-15 years to develop all its potential.
PEZ: Where do you get your riders from?
Spain and Portugal are our main markets. But we are growing very strongly in countries, such as South Africa and Poland.
Also, we have riders from Slovenia, Russia, Germany, Italy, Panama and New Zealand. We don’t look at their nationalities – we look at their talents.
RadioShack’s Tiago Machado is one of a number of Portugese riders on the books at Velofutur.
PEZ: Is the Tour de France still the big shop window?
Of course – the Tour de France is the most important race in the World. If you ask someone if he likes cycling, he will answer you whether he watches the Tour de France or not.
And people answer it because they think of the Tour of France when they think about cycling. It is obvious that for cycling fans there are a lot of other races – but for most people, cycling is the Tour.
PEZ: Isn’t it a very competitive field – there seem to be more and more agents?
We believe in the free market. It is good that other people start to work as agents – also, you always can learn from other companies.
PEZ: Why is there no minimum wage for ladies, do you think?
Unfortunately, we are not working with ladies and we don’t have enough knowledge to answer about it.
PEZ: I’ve heard that some US teams try to dissuade riders from having an agent?
We don’t have any problem with US teams. Some teams had bad experiences with some agents and it is possible that they don’t like agents. But it can be only a temporal reaction – in the long term, teams need agents.
It is not possible to imagine a world only with teams and riders because it is not the structure of the other sports. And it has no sense that riders think, work, and invest a lot of time negotiating their future contracts during the season.
PEZ: What’s your advice to a neo pro?
There’s a lot of advice for a young rider – be humble, respect and learn from the old riders, try to find your position in the bunch, discover your skills as a rider.
But the most important advice is, forget the money and think only in the sportive point of view. A good example was the situation of Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg last summer.
Velofutur client, South African Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg was a man sought after by a lot of teams for next year, finally choosing Argos-Shimano.
With all his victories in Europe, he had a lot of other agents and a lot of teams interested to sign him. But he showed that he is a man of word and he kept working with us and thinking exclusively about the sportive point of view.
This is the most important lesson and he showed talent out of the bike too. And of course – you must select the team that most believes in you!