On the Hunt: 2012 Autograph Cards

 

Late last night I had to drive to the airport to pick up my girlfriend, who was coming back from doing a triathlon in Lake Tahoe. On my way there I started to think about cycling autograph cards. If you've been to a pro race, you may be familiar with these. They are small (usually around 4"x6") cards featuring riders and are usually issued by teams (sometimes by sponsors) every year. They are given (or sold) to fans at races and it's not uncommon to see kids with binders full of them waiting patiently in front of team buses to get them signed. Around this time of the year the sets usually go on clearance, since the cards will be obsolete for the new season, so I made a mental note to check team websites the next morning and see if I could find any bargains. I have bought a few sets at races before and remember seeing them on some team on-line shops before, but I had never actually tried to buy any off the internet. Wow, I did not expect for this little "shopping trip" to turn into a few LOLs, a few more WTFs? and multiple screams at the screen. The ordeal produced a bunch of tweets, a few small withdraws from my bank account, and this post.

After driving the girlfriend to work this morning (yes, I am aware I am her chauffeur), I came back home, sat in front of the old laptop and went looking for discounted cycling autograph cards. I was amazed at how little true fan merchandise these teams had. Plenty of spandex and ugly replica jerseys, but for us fans, not much else. I was actually pretty upset, so I decided to cancel my two meetings today and go on a serious hunt. I was going to visit every team's on-line shop and I was going to buy whatever 2012 autograph cards I could find. Or so I thought. Here's the result:





TEAM AG2R LA MONDIALE
On line shop: http://www.cyclisme.ag2rlamondiale.fr/boutique
Languages: French, English
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: You can buy the official 2010 team flag (see above), but as far as a Fan Shop, it didn't really offer much. The only way to get Autograph cards from AG2R is to join their fan club for €25, and that information wasn't even available in the shop. I had to go back to their site to look for it.

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: Nothing
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/10





ASTANA PRO TEAM
On line shop: http://proteam-astana.com/en/shop
Languages: French, English, Russian
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: The landing page looks nice, but I really thought it was a joke at first. The "shop" has 2 links. One has a fashionable sneaker on it, the other says "Aeronautica Militare." Either one you click, you'll end up in some random fashion euro-trash site that makes leather accessories for people with too much money for scarves, but not enough for shaving cream. Nothing even close to cycling related.

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 2/10





BMC RACING TEAM
On line shop: http://www.bmcracingteam.com/shop/
Languages: French, English, German
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: The BMC site is nicely designed and has fancy Flash animations. They obviously need to hire a real graphic designer to deal with serious typography issues, but that's not here, nor there. Their shop gives you two options: Go to the Hincapie site to buy all the "real" cycling related stuff, or go to their "replica" team shop, where you'll find the awesome RACE BMC shirt. No autograph cards, but at least it's not all spandex, right?

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 5/10





EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI
On line shop: N/A
Languages: N/A
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: This one was kind of sad. Plenty of information about the Foundation on their site, no links to any sort of official shop. These guys haven't even updated the team site since the Tour. I received a free set in Andorra at the 2008 Tour from a cute Basque, but I guess I'm not gonna get my hands on a 2012 set.

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 1/10





FDJ-BIG MAT
On line shop: N/A
Languages: N/A
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: Again, a nice team site with plenty of Flash animations, but no link to an official on-line shop. You'd think that a team with the fan support of FDJ, would have one. Maybe you have to join their fan club in order to get them, but I saw no information about that anywhere on their site. 

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 1/10





GARMIN - SHARP

On line shop: http://www.shopslipstreamsports.com/
Languages: English only
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: Fairly or not, I must admit I expected the most out of the US based teams. The site is nice and easy to navigate, and sure, the limited edition posters are nice, but where's the autograph cards? Nowhere to be found.

Total Price: N/A 
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 5/10





KATUSHA TEAM
On line shop: N/A
Languages: N/A
Autograph cards availability: None (download option) 

Notes: Their team site is good and has plenty of information, but there is no shop. In the rider's profile, you can download a PDF with the autograph cards, but that's like this new "self-check-out" craze: "Come to my store, gimme your money. Now, do my job." Sorry, guys, no dice. 

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 2/10





LAMPRE - ISD
On line shop: http://www.all1sport.com/
Languages: Italian, English
Autograph cards availability: Yes!

Notes: Lampre licensed their e-shop to a third party on-line sports retailer. Very limited selection, unless you want to buy a $400 pink and blue superhero costume. There are plenty of those. After poking around the site for a while I found 2012 and 2011 Lampre cards, along with a 2011 Colnago-CSF set. Good thing about a third party site: they accept PayPal. Nice.

Total Price: U$ 38 for 2 Lampre sets and a Colnago - CSF set
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 6/10





LIQUIGAS - CANNONDALE
On line shop: http://www.teamliquigascannondale.com/2012/ita/main.php
Languages: Italian, English
Autograph cards availability: Yes!

Notes: I really wanted a 2012 Liquigas set, because I don't think this team is gonna be around much longer. Upon arriving at their team site, I was ecstatic at the sight of a "Cartoline" link. That's Italian for autograph card, so I quickly clicked. Of course, it was just a link to download them in PDF form. I was disappointed, but it was a good sign. I clicked on the store link and was taken to the Shop Ufficiale del Team Liquigas-Cannondale. One of the highlighted products on the landing site: Postcards 2012. Finally, a team had the cards available for purchase! 29 cards for €7.50 wasn't even that bad. I got my credit card ready, and...  well, I didn't buy them. Why on earth wouldn't I? Shipping to the US was €65. No, that is not a typo, shipping was $80 US Dollars. for that price, does Ivan Basso himself (or, as suggested on twitter by @karmaportrait, his sister) fly here to deliver the cards in person? Now, pardon my Italian, but; fuck that noise, they can keep their cards in Italy.

Total Price: €72.50 (U$ 90.72)
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/10





LOTTO BELISOL TEAM
On line shop: http://www.lottobelisol.be/en/e-shop-139.htm
Languages: Dutch, French, English
Autograph cards availability: Yes!

Notes: Their e-shop looked promising, since they had a section called "Fan Items." Click, click, click and there they are: 2012 autograph cards for a mere €5.00. After my Liquigas experience I remained cautious and didn't get too excited, expecting another €65 slap in the face. Well, it didn't come. What did come was a relatively mild, but equally disappointing €14 mini-slap. I firmly believe in never paying more for shipping than an item is worth. I also believe in not paying €14, for an item I can buy for €3 in a tent at a race start next spring. Pass.

Total Price: €19.00 (U$ 23.77)
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 5/10





MOVISTAR TEAM
On line shop: http://movistarteamshop.com/
Languages: Spanish, English
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: Towels with Valverde's face? Yes. Autograph cards with Valverde's face? No.

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/10





OMEGA PHARMA - QUICKSTEP
On line shop: http://www.omegapharma-quickstep.com/en/shop
Languages: Dutch, English
Autograph cards availability: Yes!

Notes: Three or four easy clicks from their team site, you find yourself in the "Fan Items" section and the autograph cards are right there. €5, once again. Fill out the 189 field questionnaire and finally hit "Check Out." Compared to €65, Omega Pharma's €9.65 seemed almost reasonable, but as I said before, paying twice as much in shipping as the item is worth, is just plain stupid. 

Total Price: €14.65 (U$ 18.33)
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/10



ORICA GREENEDGE
On line shop: http://www.coasttocoastcycling.com/
Languages: English
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: The only half interesting thing in their store is the GreenEdge koozie. 

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: GreenEdge beer koozie
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/10





RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 
On line shop: http://shop.rabosport.nl/wielersport.html
Languages: Dutch, English
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: I expected so much more from a team that has been around forever. In their "Fan Products" section Rabobank offer three books and shoe laces. That's it. Wow, your fans are pretty dull. 

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: Nothing
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 2/10





RADIOSHACK - NISSAN 
On line shop: http://shop.radioshacknissantrek.com/
Languages: Dutch, French, English
Autograph cards availability: Yes!

Notes: Very cool site, plenty of good stuff, including autograph cards. However, €5, plus €20 shipping = no sale.

Total Price: €25.00 (U$ 31.28) 
Purchased: Nothing
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/10





SKY PROCYCLING 
On line shop: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/?r=871
Languages: English, Italian
Autograph cards availability: None

Notes: This one really pissed me off. Their "Team Shop," is actually a link to a page in the Wiggle site, where you'll find everything you need if you're a cyclist-goon who happens to like Team Sky and over-priced gear and bicycle components, but nothing if you're a fan. A sticker? No. Posters, maybe? No. Autograph cards? Definitively not. I expected so much more of a team like Sky, with a fancy bus and all that budget. They go an out source their e-commerce site to a place for cyclists, and not fans? Nothing against Wiggle, but imagine the NY Giants selling only helmets and pads at their "fan site." Pathetic. Sky should be ashamed of themselves.

Total Price: N/A
Purchased: Nothing
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 1/10





TEAM SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK 
On line shop: http://teamsaxobanktinkoffbank.com/shop_category.asp
Languages: English, Danish
Autograph cards availability: Yes!

Notes: Guess what? They have 5 different versions of Riis' biography, but they also have autograph cards, and... wait for it... shipping is a sensible U$5.39! Not only is it a descent price, but you can choose to shop in Euro, Pounds, or USD. Way to go, Bjarne, you just made a new fan. 

Total Price: U$11.23
Purchased: One set of 30 cards
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 9/10





VACANSOLEIL-DCM PRO CYCLING TEAM
On line shop: shop.vacansoleilprocyclingteam.com/
Languages: English, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Danish (Jesus Christ!)
Autograph cards availability: Yes!

Notes: Unless you only speak Papiamento, Vacansoleil has you covered. I have made it known many time before that this is one of my favorite teams in the peloton these days, so I was more than happy to see that they had "Photocards" on their site for €5. That was until I saw the €24,30 they wanted for shipping. On top of the outrageous price, it was via something called TNT Shipping. There's a joke in there somewhere, but I'm not in the mood. What really chapped my behind was that they show you that if you lived in Europe, shipping would be a nominal €1,84. Story of my life. 

Total Price: €29.30 (U$ 36.66)
Purchased: Nothing
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 8/10



So, there I was, 3 hours later, 18 World Tour team websites and only one set of 2012 autograph cards thanks to Saxo/Tinkoff. I was pissed, frustrated and wanted more, so decided to keep going with Pro Continental teams. I visited every team site. Most didn't have squat, but some did and here's the highlights


FARNESE VINI - SELLE ITALIA 
I thought I'd struck gold here. They had the set of 2012 autograph cards for €10 and shipping was €3. Best of all, they accepted PayPal, my favorite form of payment, of course. In 15 seconds I had paid, and in 45 seconds I had an email in my inbox that read: "Dear sir, I write to you about the order on post card of team Farnese Vini Selle Italia for the shipping is 8 euro not 3 as you paye, I am sorry but you must send extra 5 euro. This is a problem with us, is not you but thank you.  - Sport-Service SRL" What could I do? I was was in the proverbial hook, so I paid. These cards better be nice.

Total Price: €18.00 (U$ 22.52) 
Purchased: One set of 30 cards 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 7/10


TEAM SPIDERTECH 
They're in Canada, right? That's just down the street, right? I mean, I drive there and be back for dinner. Well, I guess they send the cards from Northern Nunavut, because they want $20 for shipping. And then, they ask me why I make fun of Canadians.

Total Price: U$ 30 
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/10


LANDBOUWKREDIET - EUPHONY
They sure have them, and barring another "oh, you owe us more money" email, I got a sweet deal here. My only issue is that my French is a little rusty, to say the least, and my only other option was Dutch. I hope I ordered the right thing. 
Total Price: €11.00 (U$ 13.76) 
Purchased: One set of 32 cards 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 8/10


TEAM NETAPP
Here's a noble idea: NetApp's autograph cards are free. All you pay for is shipping. Sent them an email to inquire about the price of shipping them to the US. We'll see if they respond. 
Total Price: ?? 
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: ??/10


UNITEDHEALTHCARE PRO CYCLING TEAM
$12.95 for the set is steep, and $9.70 for shipping within the US is plain outrageous. 
Total Price: $22.65 
Purchased: Nothing 
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/10



And that, as they say, is the story of 18 wasted hours. When I get the cards I did purchase, I may share them here, but then again, I may not. If you have access to any of these autograph cards, let me know. We can trade or I could buy them from you. Whatever.