It’s very exciting to secure a spot on a new team or have your contract renewed, but negotiating a contract is a critical process that requires patience and attention to detail. It’s important to avoid getting too carried away with excitement—celebrate, but before signing, take the time to examine the terms of your contract carefully to ensure you are protected and informed. In the long run, knowing what you are agreeing to gives you more power to negotiate and helps avoid unpleasant surprises later on.
- Employed vs. self-employed?
It’s easy to get swept away by a multi-year offer, a tempting race programme, or a good salary—but don’t forget the fine print. Whether you will be employed or self-employed is one of the first questions to ask—even before negotiating a salary, as this answer will affect your compensation and potentially your benefits. Will you be an employee of the team (receiving pay slips and direct payments each month taxed at source), or will you be expected to be self-employed (invoicing the team for your pay each month and organizing your own tax returns at the end of each tax year)? There are pros and cons of each, but make sure you know which classification applies to you!
- A high salary is nice, but it isn’t everything
Employed WWT riders start salary negotiations at a UCI regulated minimum. Self-employed WWT riders have to receive at least 164% of that minimum. The UCI does not currently regulate the salaries for CT riders. It is important to note that salary is not the only thing to focus on. Think about and ask other key questions that will shape your experience with team. Ask: How is the team built (what kind of riders, professional staff, training facilities, etc. do they offer)? What does the team expect from you and what you can expect from the team? How does the race calendar look (which races will you likely be racing in)? Also bear in mind: What are your short- and long-term goals, what do you want to achieve, and will this team help you with your goals? Do not sell yourself short when it comes to salary, but likewise, note that there may be some worthwhile tradeoffs in terms of other kinds of support to help you reach your goals.
It may seem obvious, but be sure to clarify what equipment will your team be providing you with—and be precise (how many bikes, wheels, saddles, etc?). Make sure you are clear from the outset what equipment is yours to keep vs. what remains the property of the team and will need to be returned to the team (and when returns will be required). The same goes for clothing—ask what you receive from the team, if there are related obligations, and whether and when you have to return the team clothing when the contract ends.
- Liability and insurance
Another key questions to ask: Who is liable for the equipment provided to you defined in section 3 above, and does that liability cover all scenarios? Liability refers to who is responsible for the cost of replacing or fixing something if it is lost or damaged. For example, what happens if damage to your equipment occurs during a race, or if a bike is stolen from you while in your possession at home? Similarly, what about you—what if the worst happens and you get hurt, either in training or in a race. Will your team cover your transport home or to hospital (or home from the hospital), and what about if you can’t then ride your bike for a long period of time? Will you still receive any pay or benefits? What about maternity pay if you become pregnant while in contract? Your coverage and benefits may depend on your type of contract—employed or self-employed. If you are self-employed these details will likely fall to you to organize for yourself or to rely on state provided benefits, which will vary from place to place. On the other hand, a team may provide some of these benefits to employed riders. Just make sure you are clear from the outset what is included and don’t be afraid to ask—the worst they can say is no.
- Break clause(s) & termination
Check these contract terms carefully and make sure you know what you are agreeing to. Is there a break clause—i.e. a defined point in time when the team can simply decide that they no longer want you in the team and unilaterally end your contract—in the contract? If so, make sure you can live with this, and if it is necessary to be included, make sure the break clause is mutual, meaning you have your own right to walk away unilaterally. Outside of this break clause, it’s a good idea to clarify the stated reasons for possible termination—both from the team’s perspective as well as for you.
- Obligations apart from cycling (i.e., image rights)
Check if the team has included a clause regarding marketing and PR in your rider contract. Have they determined what rights they have for usage of your name and image by both the team and sponsors, and how many days of your time is required for this in addition to your riding and training responsibilities? Some teams will put this in a separate co-existing agreement. Make sure you are aware of the team’s partners, particularly if you have your own personal sponsors, or intend to, so you can avoid any potential conflicts.
- Make tangible agreements
Whenever possible, avoid vagueness in your contract, as vague terms can lead to misunderstandings and potential legal action against you. If your contract states that you have to undertake promotional services (for instance, posting on social media), make sure you understand exactly what that means—how many posts, how frequently, etc. The same is true for sponsor activities. Terms like ‘reasonable request,’ ‘reasonable times,’ and ‘upon reasonable advance notice to the rider’ are rather vague. Make sure that you know exactly what is expected from you and likewise, what you can expect from the team.
- Use TCA’s contract health check service
This list isn’t exhaustive and a contract can be long and onerous to work through by yourself. It’s always easier to negotiate on someone else’s behalf than for yourself, so finding the right person to advise and support you could save you plenty of difficult conversations and save or make you some more money. TCA is here for you when you need us. Please consider using our contract health check or emailing us for guidance as you navigate negotiations
with your team.