With the dust starting to settle on another season of racing it is time to look ahead to 2017. There have been a number of high profile rider signings since the summer with the World Champion Peter Sagan, Alberto Contador and Michael Matthews among those who have changed teams. Cyclingnews has picked 12 riders to watch for next season.
The World Champion's move to Bora-Hansgrohe was unquestionably the marquee signing of the summer, with the Sagan entourage – worth an estimated €6 million – aiming to hit the ground running in 2017.
The foundations at Bora were solid, yet unspectacular, and there will be few riders at the existing team who can begrudge Sagan's position as top dog. Yes, Rafal Majka and Leo Konig both have stage race ambition but both will know their place and time will come as secondary ambitions if the two-time world champion is on the start line. Sagan is both the ringmaster and the main attraction.
In terms of personal ambitions, almost anything is possible for Sagan. Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix are both major objectives but frankly anything from the Tour Down Under in January until Paris-Roubaix are winnable. Another green jersey at the Tour de France looks a shoo-in, assuming he reaches Paris, while the World Championship course in Bergen, Norway looks more suited to him than this year. The last 12 months have been phenomenal - few would argue otherwise – but it could merely be the beginning
Ion Izaguirre Insausti
To: Bahrain Merida
Buying yourself out of your contract at Movistar in order to join a new team with no history and an unproven structure certainly takes a certain courage but Izaguirre's move to the Bahrain-Merida team has a logical ring to it.
With Vincenzo Nibali concentrating on the Giro d'Italia the squad lacked a possible leader for the Tour de France. Fellow new signing Giovanni Visconti even hinted to Cyclingnews in September that the French race could prove a secondary concern for the team from the middle east in during their debut season. With added uncertainly over the race programme of Joaquim Rodriguez, plus his ageing legs, Izaguirre has landed a potential Tour de France GC position should he have the desire to take it.
However, while that may seem fine and dandy, winning the Tour of Poland and finishing second at the Tour de Suisse – plus picking up some fine Grand Tour stage wins along the way – is a far cry from being a genuine three-week contender. The career trajectory of Rui Costa springs to mind in that sense but there are plenty of others who have succeeded in winning stages and week-long races before finding the pressures of Grand Tour racing too much to bear.
At 27 Izaguirre should be hitting the peak of his powers and the move from behind Quintana's and Valverde's shadow may prove fruitful. You can't criticise his ambition.
A number of teams expressed interest in signing the multiple Grand Tour winner, from Bahrain to Cofidis, Lampre to Astana, but in the end Luca Guercilena's persistence paid off with Contador agreeing terms during this year's Tour de France.
On the face of it both parties should be satisfied with the deal. Contador has what he wants – a settled team with a manager who exudes both a sense of calm and the desire for a clear structure, and Trek-Segafredo have a big-hitter on a one-year deal – with the option of a second – capable of winning major stage races.
Whether Contador is too old, too slow or just too crash prone to win another Tour de France is an unknown but he remains a threat to the likes of Froome and Quintana. At the very least he guarantees exciting racing in the mountains, and in Bauke Mollema there is the perfect foil. The Dutchman is no stranger to sharing leadership after his time at Belkin and what Contador brings to the team in terms of stage racing knowhow and simple clout will harden and focus the team over the coming season.
In truth, Gilbert, now 34, had a reasonable 2016 season, with a Belgian national title and sprinkling of wins earlier in the season. The Ardennes were disrupted by off-bike issues and illness but the former world champion remains a genuine contender for almost every one-day race he targets.
His programme has yet to be announced but a crack at the Ardennes alongside Julian Alaphilippe and Dan Martin looks certain, while the Tour of Flanders and a roll of the dice with Boonen hasn't been ruled out. The pair have combined well at national level in the past, and with Boonen set to retire after Paris-Roubaix, we'll get to see both riders share trade colours for the spring at least. If only this was 2006 and not 2016.
From: Team Sky
To: TJ Sport
If there was ever one rider who needed to leave Team Sky it was Ben Swift. In a recent interview with Cyclingnews he made the case that although the British team were rich in operation and support there was a shallow pool of opportunities for a rider of Swift's talents. In stage races he would often be utilised for the sake of team leaders, leaving him flat for the intermediate stages that suited him, and on the rare days he had free reign the team would often be working for several riders. Now 29, Swift had to cast aside the safety net and back his own ambition.
Carving out a leadership role at TJ Sport will be the first challenge, for although they lack a supreme number one, they have no shortage of options in Ulissi, and Rui Costa.
From: Orica GreenEdge
There were a number of factors at play in this complicated move. Firstly, Orica had a number of high profile riders out of contract: Matthews, Caleb Ewan, plus Simon and Adam Yates. Esteban Chaves earned a new deal at the Giro d'Italia, and Simon Gerrans extended with a one-year option. With a clear budget to work with Orica-Bike Exchange couldn't keep everyone and sacrifices at one end needed to be made.
At the same time Giant had been looking for a one-day star since the start of the year and John Degenkolb's future became unsettled due to his longstanding injury and interest from other teams. Something had to give and Matthews was quickly signed before the market moved into full swing.
By securing Matthews, Sunweb have one of the most gifted riders in the peloton – a rare athlete who can compete in the Classics, target intermediate stages and even time trial over short courses. Whether he can deliver the level of success Degenkolb provided in 2015 is yet unclear but at 26 he is a long-term project that any team would be wise to invest in.
As for Orica, they have continued with their transition into a stage racing power and kept Gerrans for what will likely be his last season at the team. Degenkolb has his fresh start too so in that sense everybody wins.
From: Lotto JumboNL
There is little doubt that Kelderman's star has waned over the past two years after two disappointing tilts at the Tour de France and not much in between. Still, it was a surprise to see the 25-year-old off-loaded with such little fuss within the LottoNL-Jumbo camp. Their loss is Sunweb's gain and a new kit and new environment could be just what the softly spoken Kelderman needs.
According to his new team Kelderman will be wrapped in cotton wool to start with the team keen on slowly warming him up before seeing if he can regain the form that saw him claim a highly creditable seventh place at the 2014 Giro d'Italia.
With Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil leading the line and the experienced hands of Laurens ten Dam to guide him, Kelderman will have no better opportunity to regain his footing.
To: Team Sky
BMC and Team Sky fought over Rosa's future throughout the spring with both teams keen on the Italian's signature. In the end British Pound won over US Dollar and Dave Brailsford landed his latest acquisition from a team he once felt the UCI should sanction and ban.
Speaking of bans, Rosa also found himself on the cusp of a suspension during the season due to three possible whereabouts errors. However two of those episodes were struck off just before the Olympics, leaving the Italian clear to race.
In terms of ability, Team Sky have hired a 27-year-old capable of competing in stage races and in the one-day arena. In a recent interview with Cyclingnews, Chris Froome admitted that Rosa was one of the few riders to put the yellow jersey under pressure at the Tour de France when Rosa's sustained pace-setting for Fabio Aru seriously troubled the black and blue train. Both Froome and Team Sky will be looking for more of the same next season.
To: Lotto Soudal
Moreno Hofland's move from LottoNL-Jumbo to Lotto Soudal may not scream sexy or exciting for that matter but it's an intriguing transfer none the less.
Four years ago Hofland was under 23 national champion and signalled for great things after a stage win the Tour de l'Avenir and a number of promising results. During his early years at LottoNL-Jumbo he scooped up wins in smaller races but 2016 was a complete washout with nothing better than a few second places.
At 25, Hofland is far from finished as a sprinter and at Lotto Soudal he will have opportunities to strike out for himself but also have the responsibility to work with the vastly experienced Andre Greipel.
From: Giant Alpecin
To: Trek Segafredo
The second new recruit at Trek-Segafredo to feature on our list, Degenkolb's ambition will be to pick up where he left off in 2015, while his new team will be hoping the German can fill part of the void left by the retiring Fabian Cancellara. The latter ambition may never come to fruition given the Swiss rider's near cult-like following but a Classic win for Degenkolb would go some way to repaying a much refurbished squad that has just five remaining from the squad Guercilena inherited in 2012.
There's every indication that Trek's gamble on the German will pay off. The season was disrupted by the career-threatening collision with a vehicle but Degenkolb fought back and although he missed pure end speed in his first few races he enjoyed a strong second half to the year with a win in the Arctic race followed up by second at Hamburg, fifth at the GP Ouest France and a crucial win at the Sparkassen Musterland Giro. With Jasper Stuyven, and Edvard Theus, Trek have assembled one of the most dynamic Classics ensembles in next year’s WorldTour with Degenkolb their prized asset.
From: Caja Rural
Carthy is a Jonathan Vaughters prototype through and through. He can climb, he's youthful, and at 22 there's plenty of room for improvement. As an athletic specimen it’s hard to find a more Vaughters-like specimen – especially given that the pair both took the route through Spain before making it at the top level.
Carthy's 2016 season saw him finish ninth in the Volta a Catalunya, before winning the Vuelta Asturias Julio Alvarez Mendo, and then picking up another top ten at the Vuelta Ciclista Comunidad de Madrid. The season stalled after that but having completed his first Grand Tour in September, the British professional will arrive at Cannondale-Drapac raring to impress.
From: Jelly-Belly Maxxis
To: Dimension Data
Five years ago one of Morton's old team bosses was adamant the Australian would win the Tour de France. The promising climber had just given Levi Leipheimer a beating at a stage race in the USA - while still riding junior gears no less – and the scene looked set for Morton to make the next leap at WorldTour.
However, young talents do not always transfer to the next level. Some plateau, others kick back and some just can't make the transition due to personal reasons and the sheer time on the road. Morton's drop down to Continental level after two meek years at Slipstream, appear to have served him well and rejuvenated his enthusiasm for the sport.
Now 24, Morton returns to the top tier with Dimension Data, a squad keen to snap up promising riders and harness their strengths. The opportunity is there for Morton in 2017, he just has to take it.