More Sports Contracts: Cycling Teams

Lynne Kiesling

While we’re on the subject of contracting and incentives in sports … Khazak cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov is leaving team T-Mobile for Spanish team Liberty-Seguros. “Vino” came in fifth in the Tour last week and third in 2003.

As contracting and team dynamics go, cycling teams are a fascinating subject for study. Vino is leaving T-Mobile because he wants to win the Tour, but T-Mobile is Jan Ullrich’s team and is likely to continue to be so for the next couple of years. Cycling teams in the Tour cannot simultaneously support two contenders; given the complex institutional structure of the Tour, the dominant strategy for a team that wants to have an overall winner is to ride in support of one contender (note that not all teams share that objective function, but may want to maximize stage wins, or green jersey/polka dot jersey wins).

There was some speculation of Vino joining Team Discovery Channel, but now my money’s on George Hincapie as the Discovery contender for 2006.