It is being reported that EF Education-Nippo has sought to end the contract of its outgoing rider Sergio Higuita, after the Colombian was caught using a sponsor-incorrect bike in a video that went viral over the weekend; however it has now been suggested that EF riders were asked to return their Cannondale bikes on 1st November, which, if true, would have meant Higuita had no choice but to switch bikes.
Higuita’s use of the Specialized S-Works SL7 that he will be racing on during the 2022 season for Bora-Hansgrohe has resulted in the team seeking to immediately end the rider's contract, Cyclingnews reports.
Suggestions have been made that EF Education-Nippo riders were required to return their race bikes by 1st November 2021. This would presumably have left Higuita without a Cannondale race bike to use for the sportive. Others, such as former pro Rory Sutherland, have pointed to the uniqueness of this contract issue. He questions the likeliness of riders being able to hold onto their race bikes right through to the new year when contracts typically start and end.
Why does no other team fire their riders for this? Is it fair to have a rider who is leaving the team switch to a new bike 1st of January? This is seriously the only team that tries it. Do new riders to EF have their bikes from 2021 till January? I find that very hard to believe
— Rory Sutherland (@rorysutherland1) November 9, 2021
In a brief statement to road.cc, Matthew Beaudin, EF Education-Nippo's Marketing & Communication Director refuted the claims that riders were required to return their race bikes and said that the suggestion Higuita "had no Cannondale to ride is patently false."
Jonathan Vaughters, the General Manager of the EF Education-Nippo team, tweeted to say that an 'amicable agreement' has been reached with the rider and that a full statement regarding the matter will be released in the morning. Closing the tweet, he said; "We have an obligation to stand up for our partners that make this team possible."
Happy to say we’ve reached an understanding+amicable agreement w @HiguitSergio. Full statement tom AM. Wish we could have dealt w it all more privately, but story was running w or w/o our statement. We have an obligation to stand up for our partners that make this team possible.
— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) November 9, 2021
While the video means that Higuita could be missing out on a month’s pay, it did give us one of the best ever illustrations of just how fast the pros are when you compare them to the average rider. The two climbers can be seen absolutely ripping past the regular riders and some that are out to enjoy the day even pulled out their phones to record the show. So if you’ve ever wondered what combining a stupidly high FTP with a sub 60kg bodyweight does, here’s the answer…
— País do Ciclismo (@DoCiclismo) November 7, 2021
Higuita is riding with Ineos Grenadiers’ Dani Martinez, the super mountains domestique who helped Egan Bernal to overall victory in this year’s Giro d’Italia. As you can see in the video, they’re engaged in a bit of a ding-dong battle up a climb while a sportive is taking place.
The sportive is the Giro de Rigo, a closed-road event which is organised by EF teammate Rigoberto Uran. The riders in yellow are all taking part and most are probably just hoping to get round in a decent time. But the two pros have turned this section of the climb into a bit of a race and they can be seen sprinting up the road, trying to drop each other.
While it is a great watch, it has probably crushed the dreams of a few of us that think we could still hang on with the peloton in the mountains and for Higuita, the video has more serious consequences. An EF Education spokesperson said: “We recognise Sergio needs time to adjust to his new equipment, as he’s heading to a new team next season. Riders routinely request permission before using new equipment at team camps and in non-public settings, which the team routinely grants.”
While that sounds as though Higuita should be fine to use his new bike, the team were apparently unhappy that he had used the bike at such a large public event, saying that the move showed a lack of “respect for the partners that support” him.
“As a result, the team has sent a notice of termination regarding his contract. We ultimately hope to work with Sergio to come to an amicable solution.”
Should Higuita’s contract end up being terminated early, he’ll be free to switch over to a full Bora-Hansgrohe setup and EF will be a rider short for a month or so. Still think you might get the call-up?
We have asked Cannondale for clarification.