Top 10 rider transfers of the season

From Porte to Cavendish, we assess the defining signings of the 2015 window

Richie Porte
From:Team Sky
To: BMC Racing

He'll be 31 – yes we couldn't believe that either – next time the Tour de France rolls around but Richie Porte represents one of the major marquee signings of the transfer market.

Having disappointed at the Giro d'Italia in May, Team Sky were willing to let the Australian leave and even encouraged him to join another squad. Read into that what you will but Porte remains a force in stage racing having secured Paris-Nice, Catalunya and Trentino all before the end of the spring this year. He even looked in fine fettle during the opening phases of the Giro before injury, back luck and the rules surrounding assistance from other teams conspired against him. Where he would have finished without those incidents is an unknown and Porte's Grand Tour credentials remain for many an itch that has yet to be scratched.

Those that doubt his talents point to the fact that he has had his chances - at the Giro in 2014 and 2015. However, last year he failed to start the Giro due to illness and his 'plan B' status at the Tour a couple of months later was always flimsy and unfair given his health problems at the time.

A new environment, a new set-up, and an exciting – although intriguing – double act with Tejay van Garderen at BMC could be just what the Tasmanian needs to finally move from the bracket of week-long winner and into that of three-week contender. (DB)

Richie Porte was able to drop Quintana to finish second.

Rigoberto Urán
From: Etixx-Quick Step
To: Cannondale

He was once hailed by Johan Bruyneel as the most promising rider of his generation but even in the last two seasons 28-year-old Rigoberto Uran has been usurped by his fellow countrymen Nairo Quintana and, recently, Esteban Chaves.

Although 2015 has been a let down in terms of stage racing, Uran has still enjoyed success, winning the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and a silver in the Worlds TTT with Etixx. For a rider who has endured a poor season, that's far from a disaster.

However, it's in stage races where Cannondale will be expecting Uran to primarily lead the line. Having finished second in the Giro in both 2013 and 2014 he has the necessary skills to hit those heights again – although the counterpoint to that argument is it's hard to see him getting the better of Nibali, Froome, Contador and Quintana in order to move onto the top step of a Grand Tour podium.

That said, Uran will be seen by the Cannondale management as a work in progress, and a rider who can amply fill the void created by the loss of Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal. The Colombian is the first Grand Tour podium finisher the team have ever signed, so rather than sending a trio of GC men to the Tour – as the team did this year – they have a single focal point to concentrate on. (DB)

Rigoberto Uran at the stage 14 finish.

Marcel Kittel
From: Giant-Alpecin
To:Etixx-QuickStep

Marcel Kittel leaving Giant-Alpecin and joining Etixx-QuickStep has to be one of the most surprising moves of the 2015 transfer window. It's fairly rare for a rider to buy his way out of a contract, and while certain signings rumbled on for some time, this one was more hastily scrambled together.

From the point of view of Etixx-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere, it represents a particularly shrewd piece of business. He was able to offload 30-year-old Mark Cavendish, from whom he wanted more to justify the hefty wage outlay, and bring on 27-year-old Kittel, who should in theory be entering his peak years.

The move does represent something of a risk given Kittel's annus horribilis in 2015. Before that slump, however, the German had pretty much established himself as the dominant force in bunch sprinting, taking eight Tour de France stages in two years. That rise to prominence can in no way be seen as a fluke and it is only sensible to conclude that he has all the raw ingredients to return to his pomp – it is just a case of creating an environment where he can get the best out of himself. After the coalition with Giant turned sour, a change of scene might just be the best thing for Kittel in terms of reigniting his motivation.

What causes most doubt, though, is how long it will take for him to slot into his new surroundings. He has not had the luxury of bringing his former support men with him, and as such will be without Tom Veelers, while Mark Renshaw will not be there to greet him having followed Cavendish to Dimension Data. Fabio Sabatini will step up into a more prominent role, and the team has signed former Lampre leadout man Maximiliano Richeze, but how effectively and how quickly new set-ups gel together is always something of an unknown. (PF)

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) and Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) race to the finish line in Warsaw

Daniel Martin
From: Cannondale-Garmin
To: Etixx-QuickStep

He was a top ten rider in the world but there's no doubt that after almost two disappointing seasons – if you take Lombardia out of the equation – Dan Martin has struggled for success and consistency. Crashes, illness and repeated episodes of bad luck have all beset the Irishman who, more than anyone on this list, needed a change of scene after eight year's at Slipstream.

At 29 the former Liege Bastogne Liege winner has plenty to offer with a blend of one-day specialism and Grand Tour experience providing Patrick Lefevere's squad with a number of bases covered. The most important change for Martin could surround structure – and it's one that could certainly benefit him. While at Slipstream he was the leader – often regardless of his condition or form – something that appeared a hindrance at times given his mercurial nature.

At Etixx he will be one of many leaders capable of producing results. He may even have better support with battering rams Stijn Vandenbergh and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck riding either side of him. The prospect of Martin and Julian Alaphilippe working in tandem in the Ardennes provides cover after Michal Kwiatkowski's move to Team Sky. (DB)

A disappointed Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin)

Louis Meintjes
From: MTN Qhubeka
To:Lampre-Merida

Doug Ryder is understandably giddy with excitement after signing Mark Cavendish but the mere mention of Meintjes' move to Lampre is a wound that will remain open for some time.

Meintjes was meant to be the poster-boy for South African cycling and under MTN stewardship he was going to progress up the ranks and develop into the team's GC leader at the Tour. It's not hyperbolic to suggest that he was being groomed as the embodiment of the team on and off the road.

In August he looked set to stay with the team too and Ryder was utterly unaware of the about turn that saw former MTN manager Brent Copeland swoop in and cherry-pick Meintjes for 2016. MTN's loss is certainly Lampre's gain and the 23-year-old, who finished 10th in the Vuelta during the best season of his career to date, could develop into the signing of the season.

It is perhaps forgotten that he knows the Italian culture, having based himself there, and that his relationship with Copeland goes back many years. Adapting into a different culture should not, therefore, be a problem. (DB)

Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka)

Mark Cavendish
From: Etixx-QuickStep
To: Dimension Data

The future of Mark Cavendish's cycling career has been a hotly discussed issue for almost the entire 2015 season and the interest in how he'll do in his new home is likely to face similar scrutiny. It is certainly a risk for both parties but it has the potential to reap so much reward. For the team, if Cavendish were to take even half of the 14 wins he took this year – which would put him ahead of every other rider in the 2015 roster – it would be deemed a success. At the same time, his experience will be invaluable for the younger riders.

If Dimension Data fail to receive a WorldTour licence it will be the first time that the Manxman has raced outside cycling's top flight since he joined T-Mobile full-time in 2007. That is not necessarily a bad thing. An environment where racing is about more than just winning and where the pressure is not as intense could be just what Cavendish needs to reinvigorate himself. Cavendish will have to learn to fend for himself much more, not just because the lead-out train is perhaps not as strong as he's had in the past but because that's what the team wants.

Team manager Brian Smith has said that he wants to give Cavendish more freedom to race with his instincts and that is an exciting prospect. (SOS)

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quickstep)

Laurens ten Dam
From: LottoNL-Jumbo
To:Giant-Alpecin

There have been a few riders from the mature side of the tracks who have moved squads this season, with Jurgen Van Den Broeck to Katusha and Ryder Hesjedal to Trek to name just two, but ten Dam is possibly the pick of the bunch given the nature of his move and Giant Alpecin's need for an experienced climber.

When it was confirmed that ten Dam would not be offered a contract extension from LottoNL in August it looked as though the 34-year-old would be heading for a US domestic team. That certainly looked like the most likely outcome given his agent's comments to Cyclingnews but a lot can happen in a few weeks and ten Dam's move to Giant-Alpecin seemed to come from a perfect storm of circumstances.

First and foremost, with Kittel leaving and Tom Dumoulin performing so admirably at the Vuelta the team had room and need for a climber. At the same time ten Dam's options on the US domestic scene appeared to be drying up. Up popped Giant, who would allow the veteran to live in the US – his main ambition – yet still combine a transatlantic race programme with his burgeoning thirst to stock up on Virgin Atlantic Club Card points . Everyone wins, especially Dumoulin. (DB)

Laurens ten Dam in the Pyrenees

Michal Kwiatkowski
From: Etixx-QuickStep
To: Team Sky

It was a case of second time lucky for the Team Sky management when they finally got Michal Kwiatkowski to put pen to paper. He turned down the last offer from the British outfit and, instead, chose to remain at QuickStep for another two years. This time around, he felt that the time was right to move to pastures new. The culture change will be a big adjustment for Kwiatkowski but the different approach could prove beneficial for the Polish rider.

The Team Sky hierarchy is much more structured, whereas Etixx-QuickStep often go into races with multiple leaders, something that often proves counterproductive – see the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. While he has shown promise in the Grand Tours, Sky is bursting to the seams with three-week stage racers and his major focus is likely to be – or should be – the early season classics before playing a support role in the Tour de France.

Another factor for Kwiatkowski will be the loss of the rainbow stripes. The 2015 season saw him claim his least number of victories since joining QuickStep, no doubt a largely due to the extra attention apportioned to the World Champion. By not just losing those rainbow stripes but also donning the colours of a new team, it could help Kwiatkowski return to the major success that he enjoyed in 2014. (SOS)

Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep)

Mikel Landa
From:Astana
To: Team Sky

Mikel Landa was the revelation of this year's Giro d'Italia, but his impressive performance en route to third overall was marred somewhat by his feeling of being held back by having to work for teammate Fabio Aru. The Spaniard reportedly crossed the finish line in tears on the penultimate stage having been told to sit up and wait for Aru instead of going for a third stage win, and negotiations with Sky were said to have started soon after the race.

If he was seeking a team where he would have opportunities and freedom for himself, Sky is not necessarily the first name that springs to mind given the sheer depth of stage racing talent and the other marquee names they have brought on board this year.

That said, Landa, who provided further confirmation of his potential by winning the brutal Andorran stage at the Vuelta a Espana, looks likely to lead the team at next year's Giro. Richie Porte has left for BMC, meaning Landa will probably slot straight in at the top of the pecking order in terms of the team's Grand Tour ambitions that don't revolve around Chris Froome and the Tour de France – ahead of the likes of Leopold Konig, Sergio Henao, and Geraint Thomas.

If he can start 2016 strongly and cement that position for himself, Landa will have a strong team around him at pretty much every race, and as such this move could well be the one where he starts to unlock his true potential. (PF)

Mikel Landa (Astana) celebrates the stage 11 win at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana

Rein Taaramäe
From: Astana
To:Katusha

Until the start of the 2015 season the Estonian's career looked to be petering out. Having worn the white jersey and finished 12th overall at the 2011 Tour de France, Taaramäe appeared to be a rider with a future ahead of him.

Health problems and a lack of results stunted Taaramäe's progress but this year's one-year deal at Astana has reinvigorated the 28-year-old and, despite not finishing the Tour de France, he's shown consistency as well as a potent ability to win. A stage at the Tour of Murcia set the tone, with 6th overall in Algarve following suit. A stage in in the Vuelta a Burgos and the overall at the Arctic Race of Norway prompted a flurry of transfer activity, especially when the rider made it abundantly clear that he wanted out of Astana and another fresh start.

Katusha certainly offer Taaramäe somewhat of a sanctuary in which he will not be pressured into Grand Tour demands and mentally he can start again with a clean slate. He spoke about wanting freedom and the ability to pick his targets – mainly week-long races – during the Arctic Tour and if Katusha can create the correct environment Taaramäe could flourish once more. (DB)

Rein Taaramae (Astana) on the attack.

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