The PSG- ification of road cycling
Money matters. The richer the team, the better it tends to do, with few exceptions. However, it does take time to build a team, no matter what your resources. After their takeover by the Abu Dhabi royal family in 2008, it took Manchester City four years to win the Premier League. Paris SaintGermain (PSG) are spending big. Money works through the system faster in cycling. Within three years of Sky starting a team, they had won the Tour de France. UAE Emirates have been a little slower: it took until their fourth season for Tadej Pogačcar to win their first Tour.
With their position at the top of the sport secure, UAE have started to show the full extent of their wealth. While Ineos reportedly have cycling’s largest budget, €50.1 million a year, UAE’s manoeuvres this summer have raised eyebrows. They have added George Bennett, João Almeida and Marc Soler to their squad for 2022, all three riders who would be considered leaders elsewhere. They have also signed Juan Ayuso, the coming star in cycling.
There are still places to fill at the team, and it is far from the finished article, but UAE’s transfer activities represent the PSG-ification of cycling. These are the kind of signings, especially all at once, that are out of the reach of their rivals.
Of course, this is not new to cycling, Sky and then Ineos gained notoriety for the signing of star riders on huge wages, for them to largely work as super domestiques. The obvious example is Michał Kwiatkowski, who would surely have a team built around him elsewhere, but instead is used as a deluxe helper at the Tour. The same is true of Dani Martínez, Richie Porte and Pavel Sivakov.
The stacking of talent at a single team is also manifestly clear at Ineos Grenadiers: grand tour champions Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richard Carapaz are all there. When Adam Yates, Tom Pidcock, and Filippo Ganna are added into the mix, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, the talent at Ineos’s disposal is huge.
For the moment, the British team outstrip every other cycling organisation, including UAE. If one compares the ‘B’ options at Ineos to the Gulf team, it is clear who has the most talented reserve options: past Pogacčar, there is not another grand