Italian rider blocked from joining Movistar because she has a contract with national police

The 22-year-old had been confirmed as a new signing but legal constraints have stopped the transfer

(Image credit: Getty Images)

An Italian rider has been blocked from joining Movistar because she already has a contract with Italian police as a rider.

Spanish squad Movistar announced the signing of Sofia Bertizzolo earlier this year, but were forced to stop the transfer because of legal constraints.

Movistar is applying for a Women’s WorldTour licence next season, as 2020 will be the first year women’s teams will have the top-tier status.

Bertizzolo, 22, has a contract to ride for the Italian national police team while racing for Team Virtu Cycling in 2019 because of an unusual system in European women's racing which means many riders work as civil servants to support their cycling careers.

A statement from Movistar said: “Sofia Bertizzolo will not be able to join [us] for the upcoming 2020 season.

“Initially confirmed, back in August, as one of the four signings for Eusebio Unzué’s women’s team next year, the Italian has seen her transfer to the Telefónica-backed squad frustrated by legal constraints, derived from her contractual relationship with the Polizia di Stato.

“The regulations regarding UCI Women’s WorldTour teams [WWT], a category the Movistar Team is aiming for in 2020 through a WWT license, prevent the existence of dual work contracts, which in practice keeps Bertizzolo from starting her contract with the Blues on January 1.

“After exploring every option available, and establishing that it is impossible to properly combine both situations, Movistar can only wish Sofia the best with her future sporting endeavours.”

In some European nations, including Spain and Italy, national cycling federations work with governments to give women racers professional civil service jobs in order to support their racing careers.

The introduction of UCI Women's WorldTeams next year will mean that female riders can be officially recognised as professional athletes outside of their contracts as civil servants.

However, employment law in certain nations make it difficult for a rider to be defined as a professional athlete under the new UCI regulations - under Italian law a rider cannot be recognised as an employed professional athlete outside of their role with the civil service.

In Bertizzolo's case, this Italian law means she would have to class herself as self-employed in order to rider for Movistar as a professional athlete while also keeping her status as a member of the Italian armed forces. But this clashes with laws in Spain, where Movistar is based, as an athlete cannot be classed as self employed.

In this case, the clash between Spanish and Italian employment laws mean Bertizzolo cannot ride for Movistar.

Bertizzolo raced for Astana Women’s Team from 2016 until 2019, when she joined Danish outfit Virtu in January.

This season, she placed fourth in the Tour of Flanders and took a top-10 in the Italian national championships, won by Marta Bastianelli.

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In August, Movistar announced they had signed Bertizzolo on a two-year contract, with women’s team manager Sebatián Unzue describing her as “one of the biggest up-and-coming talents in the sport.”

But on Monday (November 25), Movistar announced that Bertizzolo would not be joining the team because of the legal issues.

The UCI is introducing Women’s WorldTour teams for the first team, with licenses being granted if squads can meet the requirements, which include a minimum salary, full-time contracts for riders and participation in all WorldTour events.