The month of September and early days of October has turned out to be a difficult period for the sport, with several teams sealing the doors of the service course for good and approximately 100 top level riders scrambling for rides.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Maybe it's just a much needed correction but you can't help but feel there is something seriously rotten with the economics of professional road cycling, where the only constant appears to be insecurity.

Euskaltel-Euskadi, Vacansoleil-DCM, Sojasun and Champion System are four of the teams to fold, barely counterbalanced by the arrival of Australian outfit Drapac to the ProContinental level, Europcar joining the WorldTour circus and the generational wave of retirements.

On promotion both teams will be adding riders but are keeping a tight hold on the pocket book. Allowed up to 30 riders, Europcar will combat the 2014 season with less than a full roster.

"We currently have 22 riders, a little too much for our current level, but if we go into the WolrdTour we will add three more. But we will not go beyond that, we do not want to splurge," said Europcar team general manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau.

With the uncertainty and flood of riders on the market, Drapac's Sporting Director Henk Vogels recently said his phone was running hot with riders looking for a job.

Then there are the pay cuts and rumours of pay cuts.

After Vacansoleil-DCM announced its demise, 26-year-old Thomas de Gendt, a rider who has won stages at the Giro d'Italia, Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse and Volta a Cataluyna was left without a team for the 2014 season. In what appeared to be an act of charity, the Belgian was picked up last week by Omega Pharma-QuickStep, but rumoured to have taken an 80 per cent pay cut just to stay in the game for a single year.

Bjarne Riis's Saxo Bank team is looking for another big name sponsor after falling out with Russian money man Oleg Tinkoff. With no deep-pocketed benefactor on the horizon and a reported $6 million dollar hole in his budget the solution for Riis may be a scaling back of operations to match that of Europcar.

Longtime Euskaltel-Euskadi rider and 2008 Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez's plight best exemplifies the problems which exist in professional cycling - now without a team or expressions of interest for 2014.

Yep, it's a hot business mess and no one seems to understand it.

While we focus on cycling's version of a global financial crisis, it's easy to forget that there are flesh and blood men and women attached to cycling's market failures. Managers, soigneurs, mechanics and all the other behind the scenes people needed to put a team on the road for our weekly entertainment, but of course it's the riders we care most about.

There are few sports harder than professional cycling so its important to remember the sacrifice of the men (and women) who entertain us with their exploits while we smash midnight espressos as we will them on. Men like 2013 Lithuanian National Road Race Champion Tomas Vaitkus.

After a much needed house cleaning by Orica-GreenEDGE, Vaitkus is without a WorldTour contract for 2014 and no prospects of receiving one. Frustrated, he publicly dropped a few Tweets to describe his situation.



While the mountain bike world may turn out to be the winner in Vaitkus's transformation it's clear where his passion lies. The sense of betrayal felt is palpable but so is the realisation that he's just collateral damage in a sport desperately in search of a stable and sustainable business model.