Belgian pro cycling rider Cian Uijtdebroeks signs a four-year contract until 2027 with Team Jumbo-Visma

December 10, 2023

Belgian pro cycling rider Cian Uijtdebroeks terminated his ongoing contract with BORA – hansgrohe and signs a four-year contract until 2027 with Team Jumbo-Visma.

What’s the catch?

BORA – hansgrohe claims Cian is and will remain with them, also in the coming 2024 season, stating the rider still has a contract with the team until 31 December 2024. This statement seems a stretch. Cian can unilaterally terminate his contract under applicable laws, either for just cause or without just cause. He clearly seems to have done so and hence was no longer bound with BORA – hansgrohe when he signed a new contract with Team Jumbo-Visma. This is not the first unilateral contract termination by a rider (remember Tom Boonen and Wout Van Aert), nor will it be the last.

Sports governing bodies (“SGB’s”), including Union Cycliste Internationale, and cycling team associations, including AIGCP (headed by … Jumbo-Visma manager Richard Plugge) tend to herald the principle of “pacta sunt servanda”, meaning that what has been agreed between a team and a rider should always be respected. SGB’s, often based in liberal Switzerland, tend to deploy a combination of political pressure and a wide range of regulatory tools to try and enforce this perceived need for contractual stability by threatening with bans for athletes unilaterally terminating their contracts and imposing sanctions for the new team (see also art. 17 FIFA RSTP in professional football). In doing so, SGB’s tend to disregard national laws and the possibility to unilaterally terminate rider contracts.

This should be interesting

We could expect an outcry by other cycling teams and pressure on Union Cycliste Internationale to impose a riding ban on Cian and sanctions on the perceived ‘baddies’ at Team Jumbo-Visma. Cian and his management seemingly anticipated the regulatory backlash by BORA – hansgrohe, Union Cycliste Internationale and the like, by already initiating legal proceedings.

Sven Demuelemeester’s guess is that those legal proceedings would be civil court proceedings (employment tribunal) rather than the ‘usual’ proceedings within the realm of sports. In sports cases, (timely) choosing your (legal) battleground is key.

How this could play out:

  1. Following the preliminary outcry, a three-party agreement is reached between Cian, BORA Hansgrohe and team jumbo-visma.
  2. We see a continued stand-off between the parties and a plethora of legal proceedings, including potential injunction proceedings against UCI should they impose a rider ban.

For more reading on the perpetual field of tension between (labour) laws and federation regulations (in Dutch), see this article by Niels Verborgh and Sven Demeulemeester on the Wout Van Aert case.