Top 10 transfer flops of 2017

Riders who failed to live up to their promise this season

From Vincenzo Nibali's two Grand Tour podiums to Philippe Gilbert's stunning resurgence, via, of course, a third World Championships title for Peter Sagan, there were some transfers from last winter that turned out to be very successful indeed over the past 12 months.

But what of those that didn't go as planned? There were plenty of riders who didn't hit the heights expected of them at their new teams, and transfers that simply did not work. Cyclingnews takes a look at some of them.

Tony Martin

Moved from: Quick-Step Floors
Moved to: Katusha-Alpecin
Victories: 1
Best result: 1st, stage 2, Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana
What went wrong: There was a time when there was almost a sense of inevitability about time trials that Tony Martin showed up to. But, the German hasn't looked himself for a good two or three years. After extensive experiments with his position led to a dip in his results, he reverted back late last season and won at the Tour of Britain before winning a fourth world title with an utterly dominant performance in Qatar. It all looked bright for his move to Katusha-Alpecin, a team with a German sponsor and bike manufacturer, but Martin failed to win a time trial this year. He was second at the Volta ao Algarve and the Criterium du Dauphine and fourth on both the opening-day and penultimate-day time trials at the Tour de France. He could only manage ninth at Worlds, and was angry that the course included a steep climb in the finale. As seasons in the world champion's skinsuit go, it was one to forget.

Martin wasn't just signed to win time trials, however. After his revelation as a cobbled classics rider at Quick-Step last year, Martin was handed a dual leadership role at Katusha alongside Alexander Kristoff. For all the excited talk of how Martin could attack and Kristoff sit in for sprints, the best they could manage was Kristoff's fifth place at the Tour of Flanders, with Martin unable to translate those promising domestique showings into any sort of impact as a leader.

Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin)

John Degenkolb

Moved from: Team Sunweb
Moved to: Trek-Segafredo
Victories: 1
Best result: 1st, stage 3, Dubai Tour
What went wrong: Degenkolb's troubles can partly be attributed to factors broadly outside his control – injury and illness. At the Tour de France he was caught up in the crash between Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish on stage 4 and struggled with his shoulder thereafter, while bronchitis forced him to abandon the Vuelta a España, miss the World Championships, and ultimately spend time in hospital.

If the second half of Degenkolb's season went off the rails, the first half looks solid enough on paper. He won in his first race in the team's colours at the Dubai Tour, and finished in the top 10 at Milan-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix. However, Degenkolb is a previous winner of Monuments and, as someone brought in to help fill the void left by Fabian Cancellara, Trek's Classics director Dirk Demol was left frustrated by his performances.

"They [Trek's leaders] sometimes have that one second of doubt, and it's one second too much. If the big guys go, you cannot think 'should I try to go with him or not?' You're already too late," said Demol. "I don't want to criticise John but at certain points… on the Kemmel climb [at Gent-Wevelgem] they were the three strongest in the race, but afterwards there's another split and if Sagan and Van Avermaet go then he cannot wait for a single moment."

Leopold Konig

Moved from: Team Sky
Moved to: Bora-Hansgrohe
Victories: 0
Best result: 39th overall, Tour of Guangxi
What went wrong: A knee injury hampered Konig for pretty much the whole season and he ended up with just 20 race days in his legs, six of which ended with him climbing off early. The Czech rider has finished in the top 10 of all three Grand Tours and there were high hopes for his return to Bora-Hansgrohe, having previously spent four seasons at the German team when it was a Pro Continental outfit known as NetApp-Endura. Konig had spent the two intervening years at Team Sky, where he picked up experience but not leadership opportunities, and he was set to lead Bora at the Giro d'Italia on their rise to WorldTour status.

However, after abandoning his first race of the season in Mallorca, he didn't appear again until June and the Criterium du Dauphine, where his abandon on day three extinguished any hope of riding the Tour de France. On his return in late July he rode four one-day races and abandoned all four.

Kong did finish the Tour of Turkey and Tour of Guangxi at the end of the season, so there's every indication that, with a solid winter under his belt, he'll be able to start proving himself again in 2018.

The Dauphine is just the second race of 2017 for Leopold König (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Ben Swift

Moved from: Team Sky
Moved to: UAE Team Emirates
Victories: 0
Best result: 2nd, stage 7, Criterium du Dauphine
What went wrong: This was a transfer that seemed to make a lot of sense. Two podium finishes at Milan-San Remo don't lie and it was widely agreed that Swift needed to leave Team Sky to fulfill his potential. Despite greater freedom, more opportunities, and a team that often worked for him rather than the other way round, Swift had a difficult first season at UAE Team Emirates, where he never really found his stride.

He was 17th at San Remo, the biggest target of his season, and failed to make much of an impact elsewhere, save for an impressive second place on Alpe d'Huez at the Dauphine. There was always the suspicion that he and Diego Ulissi were too similar to dovetail their efforts efficiently, and the arrival of Alexander Kristoff in 2018 will only make it harder for the 30-year-old to assert his authority in the team.

Fifth place at the World Championships, however, was a timely reminder that the class is still there – things just need to click into place.

Andre Cardoso

Moved from: Cannondale-Drapac
Moved to: Trek-Segafredo
Victories: 0
Best result: 19th overall, Criterium du Dauphine
What went wrong: Cardoso tested positive for EPO in June and his career now hangs in the balance. The 33-year-old signed for Trek after three seasons at Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream Sports team and was set to provide support for Alberto Contador in the mountains at the Tour de France. However, news of Cardoso's positive broke in the week leading up to the Tour and the team were forced to parachute in a replacement, starting the race under a cloud and associations with perhaps the most notorious banned product in cycling's colourful history.

Cardoso protested his innocence in the aftermath and has requested analysis of his B-sample, which he's still waiting for. If it confirms the original finding, he would face a ban of two years at the very least, and that could be the end of his career, while for Trek-Segafredo it would go down as the most damaging signing in the team's history. Until there's closure either way, the cloud continues to linger.

Andre Cardoso (Trek-Segafredo)

Sep Vanmarcke

Moved from: LottoNL-Jumbo
Moved to: Cannondale-Drapac
Victories: 0
Best result: 3rd, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
What went wrong: With Greg Van Avermaet's dramatic change of fortunes in the last two years, the mantle of Belgian nearly-man passed to Sep Vanmarcke, and he hoped that his return to Jonathan Vaughters' squad would see him finally win a major Classic. His spring, however, went completely off the rails.

A podium at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was a promising start but he injured his ribs in a crash at Strade Bianche and then suffered stomach problems at precisely the wrong moment – just as the Flemish fortnight of cobbled classics was beginning. After struggling through Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3-Harelbeke, he crashed out of the Tour of Flanders and a broken finger prevented him from riding Paris-Roubaix.

There was mitigation for Cannondale-Drapac in the form of fourth at Flanders and a podium at Roubaix, courtesy of Dylan Van Baarle and Sebastian Langeveld respectively, but Vanmarcke, who went on to record three top-10s in the autumn WorldTour classics, has already been thinking about spring 2018 for a long time.

Moreno Moser

Moved from: Cannondale-Drapac
Moved to: Astana
Victories: 0
Best result: 18th, time trial, Volta ao Algarve
What went wrong: It seems an awfully long time ago now that Moreno Moser burst onto the scene with victory at the Trofeo Laigueglia, kicking off an incredible neo-pro campaign that led to two stage wins and the overall title at the Tour of Poland, via a victory at Eschborn-Frankfurt. A Strade Bianche title the following year confirmed his status as one of the most exciting prospects in the sport.

Moser's career, however, flatlined with victories drying up, and his move to Astana was meant to kick start things once again. "I think I've reached the right moment for a leap in quality. I feel ready and I'm certain that I'll manage to go well and certainly be more consistently at a high level," Moser said this time last year.

2017, however, will go down as a wasted 12 months. Moser abandoned his first race and struggled through Algarve, Strade Bianche, and Tirreno-Adriatico, before abandoning the Tour of the Alps. It was at that point he revealed he was suffering from cytomegalovirus and he spent two months on the sidelines, barely able to train. He came back in July but his results sheet for the second half of the season makes for sorry reading – he was outside the time limit on stage 4 of the Tour of Austria and failed to finish stage 7 of the Tour of Poland before riding seven one-day races and finishing two.

Moreno Moser (Astana) on the attack

Jurgen van den Broeck

Moved from: Katusha-Alpecin
Moved to: LottoNL-Jumbo
Victories: 0
Best result: 20th, time trial, Tour de Romandie
What went wrong: Van den Broeck signed a two-year deal with the Dutch team but it was soon clear that it was the end of the road and as early as May he had decided to scrap that second year and bring a close to his career at the end of 2017. Van den Broeck was once the great hope of Belgian stage racing, twice finishing in the top five at the Tour de France and in the top 10 of the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España as well. However, a bad crash in 2013 had a lasting impact on his knee, and he was never the same rider.

After nine years at the Belgian Lotto, he joined Katusha in 2016 to try his hand as a domestique for Joaquim Rodriguez. He only stayed for a year, and the move to the Dutch Lotto represented a final throw of the dice.

"I listen to my body and heart," he said in May. "You can only be a professional cyclist if you go for it 100 per cent. It becomes more and more difficult to achieve that and to be away from home that much."

Andrea Guardini

Moved from: Astana
Moved to: UAE Team Emirates
Victories: 0
Best result: 4th, stage 6, Tour of Guangxi
What went wrong: Andrea Guardini is best known for his exploits in Asia, home of 25 of his 36 career victories, and more specifically the Tour de Langkawi, where he has struck no fewer than 22 times. UAE Team Emirates signed him from Astana in the belief he could perform in the bigger races, and handed him a predominantly WorldTour calendar.

In September, however, the two parties were ripping up the second year of their contract and Guardini is now headed to the second-division Bardiani-CSF team.

Rafal Majka

Moved from: Tinkoff
Moved to: Bora-Hansgrohe
Victories: 1
Best result: 1st, stage 14, Vuelta a España
What went wrong: Majka's season was no disaster, but he was signed as Bora's marquee Grand Tour leader, and he'll be judged by his results in those races. After finishing third at the 2015 Vuelta and fifth at the 2016 Giro, it was felt there was still room for improvement, but Majka was forced to abandon the Tour de France after a stage 9 crash. Coming shortly after Peter Sagan's disqualification, the Tour was nothing short of a disaster for Bora. Onto the Vuelta and Majka's GC hopes ended with big time losses in the first week.

Majka bounced back to take a stage win in the mountains in Spain, and he also won the Tour of Slovenia and finished second at the Tours of Poland and California, but Bora will hope for a return in the Grand Tours in 2018.

Rafal Majka celebrates his Vuelta a España stage victory.

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