With training camps for the upcoming WorldTour season well underway and 2019 team presentations taking place almost daily, Cyclingnews takes a look at the 2018-19 transfer market with the ins, outs and analysis of who's gone where and which teams have dealt themselves a stronger or weaker hand coming into the new year.
In this first instalment, we take a look at the French AG2R La Mondiale team, the Astana Pro Team, a bolstered Bahrain-Merida, the new CCC Team that rose out of merger between BMC Racing and the Polish CCC Pro Continental team, and the Bora-Hansgrohe squad of three-time world champion Peter Sagan.
Overview: Subtle tweaks rather than overall changes.
In: Larry Warbasse (Aqua Blue Sport), Geoffrey Bouchard (neo-pro), Aurelien Paret-Peintre (neo-pro), Jaakko Hänninen (neo-pro) and Dorian Godon (Cofidis).
Out: Cyril Gautier (Vital Concept), Rudy Barbier (Israel Cycling Academy), Jan Bakelants (Team Sunweb) and Matteo Montaguti (Androni).
Extended: Benoit Cosnefroy, Alexandre Geniez, Clement Chevrier, Quentin Jauregui, Nans Peters, Samuel Dumoulin, Hubert Dupont, Alexis Gougeard, Gediminas Bagdonas, Stijn Vandenbergh, and Mathias Frank.
Analysis: Bouchard moving into the WorldTour at 26 is an interesting project, especially given the fact he won 10 times this season - but it’s Paret-Peintre, at 22, and Hänninen, 21, who really stand out. The young Paret-Peintre has a string of impressive results to his name and will be nurtured carefully, especially after second place in this year’s Ronde de l’Isard – a race previously won by Pavel Sivakov, Kenny Elissonde and John Devine. Whatever happened to him? Hänninen looks like a wonderful talent, and finished third in a U23 Worlds in Innsbruck. Warbasse was a late call-up after Aqua Blue’s implosion and deserves to race at the highest level.
The loss of Gautier and Bakelants shouldn’t leave too much of a void, while there were a number of key contract extensions, including Gougeard, Frank, Geniez and former U23 world champion Cosnefroy. Overall, it’s been a transfer period of minor tweaks for the French team, rather than the broad changes we saw two years ago. Montaguti leaves after eight years with the team, so for the first time in over a decade there’s no Italian at the squad.
Overview: Will replacing Valgren with the Izagirre brothers pay off?
In: Yuriy Natarov (neo-pro), Manuele Boaro (Bahrain-Merida), Davide Ballerini (Androni Giocattoli Sidermec), Rodrigo Contreras, Ion Izagirre, Gorka Izagirre (both Bahrain-Merida), Jonas Gregaard Wilsly (Riwal-Ceramicspeed), Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data)
Out: Michael Valgren (Dimension Data), Jesper Hansen (Cofidis), Tanel Kangert (EF-Drapac), Oscar Gatto (Bora-Hansgrohe), Moreno Moser (Nippo Vini Fantini), Andrey Grivko (TBC), Sergei Chernetski (Caja Rural), Riccardo Minali (Israel Cycling Acedemy) Truls Engen Korsaeth (retired).
Extended: Alexey Lutsenko, Nikita Stalnov, Laurens De Vreese, Andrey Zeits.
Analysis: The loss of Valgren to Dimension Data is huge, but Alexander Vinokourov’s team still managed to draw out 30 wins – 10 of which came at WorldTour level - in 2018, so they’re obviously doing something right. Miguel Angel Lopez will be relied upon in Grand Tours, while the late addition of the Izagirre brothers brings added stability to a team where two of their leaders, in Luis Sanchez and Jakob Fuglsang, are both over the age of 33.
Kudus is a gamble that could pay off but there’s little else to be excited about. Gregaard Wilsly has a few decent results from the U23 ranks, Ballerini could pick up a few wins below WorldTour level, while Vinokourov has shed some dead wood that was under performing or nearing the end of the line. There are no stand-out signings, but Astana haven’t brought in a truly proven winner since Sanchez’s arrival from Caja Rural. The 2019 season is also likely to be Contreras’ final chance at this level too.
Overview: A team that has strengthened in virtually every department.
In: Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing), Phil Bauhaus (Sunweb), Marcel Sieberg (Lotto-Soudal), Stephen Williams (neo-pro), Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing), Andrea Garosio (d’Amico – Utensilnord), and Jan Tratnik (CCC Sprandi Polkowice).
Out: Manuele Boaro, Ion Izagirre, Gorka Izagirre (all Astana), Niccolo Bonifazio (Deklo Marseille), Giovanni Visconti (Wilier), Enrico Gasparotto (Team Dimension Data), Borut Bozic (retired), Kanstantin Siutsou (fired), Ramunas Navardauskas (Delko Marseille Provence), Franco Pellizotti (retired) and David Per (Adria Mobil).
Extended: Hermann Pernsteiner, Sonny Colbrelli, Ivan Garcia, Antonio Nibali, Mark Padun, and Yukiya Arashiro.
Analysis: They couldn’t match the money offered to the Izagirre brothers, but on the plus side, Bahrain-Merida have come out of the transfer window in fine fettle. Dennis is a Grand Tour prospect in the making who will compete in every time trial he enters; Damiano Caruso adds assistance to Vincenzo Nibali in the mountains, and can challenge in week-long races; Bauhaus is a wonderful sprinting prospect; Teuns has something of a point to prove after a stellar 2017 but a number of near misses this campaign; and Stephen Williams is one of the most promising riders to move out of the SEG set-up.
Yes, they lost out on Wout Van Aert and might be slightly light in the Spring Classics, but a core of Nibali, Colbrelli, Haussler, Teuns and Mohoric is as diverse and talented as nearly any WorldTour team. What’s more, Dennis, Bauhaus and Teuns should all be entering the primes of their careers.
Granted, the team had a number of riders out of contract, so therefore they had more room to manoeuvre than most in the market, but they’ve invested wisely. Caruso will give Nibali a huge boost in the mountains, while the loss of Pellizotti to retirement and Visconti to Wilier is off-set by younger riders coming through the ranks.
That said, the team only won four WorldTour races in 2018, a tally Dennis bettered all on his own, so results have to come in 2019 or questions will be asked. And finally, the deal with McLaren that was announced in December cannot be overlooked. The venture could see the team become the biggest super power in the sport, regardless of what happens with Team Sky.
BMC Racing / CCC Team [becomes CCC Team in 2019]
Overview: New team, new look, new everything.
In: Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Will Barta (Hagens Berman Axeon), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Simon Geschke (Sunweb), Szymon Sajnok (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Laurens ten Dam (Sunweb), Gijs van Hoecke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Josef Cerny (neo-pro), Amaro Antunes (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Victor de la Parte (Movistar), Lukasz Wisniowski (Team Sky), Pawel Bernas (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Kamil Gradek (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Lukasz Owsian (CCC Sprandi Polkowice)
Out: Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Danilo Wyss (Dimension Data), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First-Drapac), Simon Gerrans (retires), Loïc Vliegen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First-Drapac), Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida), Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ), Jurgen Roelandts (Movistar), Brent Bookwalter (Mitchelton-Scott), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Kilian Frankiny (Groupama-FDJ), Jean-Pierre Drucker (Bora-Hansgrohe), Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb), Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ)
Extended: Greg Van Avermaet, Michael Schar, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Alessandro De Marchi, Joey Rosskopf, Patrick Bevin, Francisco Ventoso
Analysis: The team may have declared a desire to win 20 races in 2019, but that seems somewhat far-fetched given that they don’t have a lead sprinter, or a volley of climbers and breakaway specialists. That said, they’ve built their foundations around one of the most dependable Classics riders of the last few years, and one of the few riders who can match Peter Sagan. A Paris-Roubaix or Tour of Flanders win for Greg Van Avermaet would represent a huge success for what’s effectively a new team.
The merged remnants of BMC Racing and CCC have also signed dependable riders to support their Olympic champion, with Van Keirsbulck, Schar and Ventoso notable inclusions. Pauwels will provide the occasional breakaway, while De Marchi’s decision to stay represents a real coup. Sajnok, Barta and Van Hooydonck are all worth following but don’t expect them to carry the team in its first season.
Overall, the team have done well considering how long they had to wait before they could sign riders. They made the right call in basing their short-term vision around Van Avermaet, but their recruitment in 12 months' time, when WorldTour points will decide the 2020 rankings, will be just as crucial.
Overview: Three new riders for the classics, and no major departures.
In: Oscar Gatto (Astana), Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC), Max Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors)
Out: Aleksejs Saramotins (Interpro), Matteo Pelucchi (Androni), Michael Kolář (retired).
Extended: Rafal Majka, Pawel Poljanski, Jay McCarthy, Peter Sagan, Juraj Sagan, Erik Baska, Daniel Oss, Maciej Bodnar, Marcus Burghardt, Patrick Konrad, Lukas Pöstlberger, Gregor Mühlberger, Felix Großschartner, and Christoph Pfingsten.
Analysis: The biggest news came with the contract extension of Peter Sagan and several other teammates, but the German outfit have also made a number of shrewd moves in the market. Gatto and Drucker will bring experience and firepower to the Classics, while Schachmann, at 24, is a wonderful prospect for both one-day and stage races. Bora failed to go after a proven GC rider, so they will be expecting one of Majka, Formolo and Buchmann to step up after lukewarm 2018 seasons.