Two former Zaaf Cycling Team riders have been prevented from racing at La Vuelta Femenina, according to reports from journalist Charles Marsault at the cycling website Velo-Club on Saturday, just two days before the start of the Women’s WorldTour event held from May 1-7 in Spain.
New Zealand’s Michaela Drummond, who left the Zaaf Cycling Team on April 17 and signed a contract on April 28 to race with Spanish team Farto-BTC, confirmed that she will not be at the start of the seven-day race. She wrote in a post to her social media account that the Spanish Cycling Federation has not permitted her registration to compete with her new team in the event.
“From one challenge to another, we found a new home at Farto-BTC Women’s Cycling Team, and I was excited to be gearing up for the Vuelta Feminina, but the Spanish Cycling Federation has refused to register me like my previous teammates who have successfully transferred to new Continental and WWT Teams,” Drummond wrote.
“I would love to be able to race again as soon as possible, and can’t understand why the Spanish Cycling Federation does not follow the example set by the UCI. This is just one more hurdle for the mind to overcome, and we aren’t done yet. Fingers crossed, we can find a resolution soon. Thanks to those who have sent messages of support.”
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Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) explained in an interview with AS.com, that the reason is due to employment laws in Spain. “In Spain, we have the Labor Law law. It is not easy to leave any job. If we accept that transfer right now, the Zaaf could sue the RFEC because currently, the brokerage has a contract with them.”
The Spanish Cycling Federation explained to AS.com that it received a request from Farto-BTC to register Drummond to the team for La Vuelta Femenina last Friday, April 28, with Saturday being the final date to register. They didn’t feel it was possible to have it done in time to arrange the registration transfer between the two Spanish teams, which are not Women’s WorldTeams, and so transfers fall under the Spanish Cycling Federation.
“We, at the RFEC, are guarantors. We have to make sure, and try, that everything goes in the best way. As we have a current contract, we cannot accept something like this. We are going to try to make everything come to fruition, and on Wednesday (the first working day in Madrid this week) we will speak with the Zaaf. It depends on them that the rider can go to Farto. These are legal things, but we trust in the good faith of the Zaaf so that this is resolved,” the federation said.
Debora Silvestri was part of the Zaaf Cycling Team until the UCI removed it from its list of registered Continental-licenced women’s teams on April 27. She is the ninth rider to leave the team, which started with 15 riders in January. Silvestri announced her official departure from the Zaaf Cycling Team on Sunday but has not been named to a new team yet.
“Unfortunately, the adventure with Zaaf is over. I won’t say nothing more from what media are saying, only things haven’t gone how they had to go. I just want say a big good luck and big thanks to all the nice girls I met in this team. It’s not the end, maybe some news are coming,” Silvestri wrote.
The Spanish-registered team is currently under investigation after the majority of its riders have walked away from the programme amid allegations that they have not paid some riders and staff salaries and that they have shown a lack of professionalism.
Cyclingnews has contacted the Zaaf Cycling Team to clarify the team’s financial situation, along with the allegations that they have not paid some riders and staff and allegations of a lack of professionalism, but the team has not responded.
The UCI has confirmed to Cyclingnews that the Zaaf Cycling Team’s roster is below the minimum of eight riders that the sport governing body requires for a team to obtain a Continental women’s team licence, and as such, the team does not currently meet those requirements, stated in article 2.17.004, and has lost its licence.
Silvestri’s departure from the Zaaf Cycling Team follows Ebtissam Zayed Ahmed, Drummond, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Lucie Jounier, Mareille Meijering, Elizabeth Stannard, Heidi Franz, and Maggie Coles-Lyster.
Some of the riders who departed the team have found new contracts, with Cordon-Ragot signing with Human Powered Health just ahead of Paris-Roubaix, Jounier with Team Coop-Hitec and Meijering with Movistar, Franz signing with DNA Pro Cycling Stannard with Israel Premier Tech, who is currently competing at La Vuelta Femenina because her transfer was handled by the UCI due to the team being a Women’s WorldTeam.
The UCI granted these riders exemptions to register with new teams before the transfer window opens on June 1 due to the extenuating circumstances of their departure from Zaaf.
Ebtissam Zayed Ahmed, Michaela Drummond and Debora Silvestri are still listed on the team’s website, even though they have announced their departure. Also still listed on the team website are Eva Anguela, Danielle De Francesco, Lucía García, Nikola Nosková, Marta Romance, and Emanuela Zanetti.
Unipublic confirmed last week that the team would not be taking part in La Vuelta Feminina, with sources at the race organisation telling Cyclingnews that Zaaf had opted to pull out and will not be substituted.
Cyclingnews reached out to the Spanish Cycling Federation regarding allegations it has prevented two of the former Zaaf riders from competing at La Vuelta Femenina with new teams; however, it has not yet replied.
However, the Spanish Cycling Federation has previously told Cyclingnews that it is aware of the allegations that Zaaf Cycling Team has not paid some of its riders and staff and that the UCI has removed the team from the list of registered Continental Teams.
“As established by the UCI regulations, a UCI women’s continental team must have at least 8 riders on the roster to be able to compete. The Continental Team license is handled by the national federations, but the one who has the power to withdraw the license is the UCI,” a representative from the Spanish Cycling Federation said.
“Regarding the rest of the issues, we can only tell you that the Spanish Cycling Federation is in continuous contact and communication with the UCI, as well as with the riders and workers of the Zaaf team affected by this situation. We cannot reveal details, but the RFEC is following all the action procedures established by the UCI for cases like this in order to give full legal guarantees to the different parties affected.”