It's a measure of the fragility and pace within the transfer market that in the space of just a few hours both Łukasz Wiśniowski and Julien Vermote appeared to be on their way out of Etixx-QuickStep before both re-signing with the Belgian team.
Vermote and Wiśniowski were out of contract as of Wednesday with Etixx manager Patrick Lefevere telling Cyclingnews at roughly 5pm that Sky had offered the riders deals for the future. "Go talk to Dave [ed. Brailsford]" was Lefevere's response when asked where the pair were heading. However by midnight a source in Belgium had informed Cyclingnews that a deal between Vermote and Lefevere had been struck – backed up by a text message from Lefevere sent at 3am on Thursday morning. At a more reasonable 9am this morning, Lefevere also confirmed that Wiśniowski had signed a one-year deal. From out the door to shaking hands within the space of 12 hours – this is how the transfer market within cycling often works.
Cyclingnews has since learnt, however, that Wiśniowski has not signed with Etixx Quickstep - contrary to the team's announcement. The rider's agent has confirmed that the Polish ride is still deciding his future with Team Sky still in the running. A decision will be made next week.
From a broader perspective, all of the key players have contracts for next year. Vincenzo Nibali will head the Bahrain Merida team, Peter Sagan will wear Bora colours and, as Cyclingnews broke earlier this summer, Michael Matthews has signed for Giant-Alpecin, while Alberto Contador agreed terms at Trek-Segafredo on the Tour de France's second rest day.
Further down the food chain, teams are in the driving seat as time ticks down to the end of the season and prices drop as riders and their agents become more desperate. The folding of IAM and Tinkoff has only exacerbated the situation. With the majority of team leaders confirmed, team bosses can now pick and choose the riders they want to complement their stars.
Team Sky are unlikely to repeat their transfer campaign of 2015, when they signed two key marquee riders in Mikel Landa and Michal Kwiatkowski. Instead, Dave Brailsford will trim the fat from his squad, re-sign key riders as he has done with Geraint Thomas, and draft in a few new faces. As reported, Nicolas Roche is very likely to move to BMC and Andrew Fenn is looking at his option away from the team. After a lean year, Leopold König is set to depart – rumours are of a shift back to Bora – while Sergio Henao's agent has told Cyclingnews that his rider will remain on the team and sign a new contract. Younger cousin Sebastian has another year left on his existing deal.
Diego Rosa, a rider who has been linked to Sky since the spring, is also expected to join from Astana. And Wout Poels, who won Liege-Bastogne-Liege and helped set up Chris Froome for a third Tour de France win, has re-signed. Cyclingnews understands that the team will make the announcement imminently.
Łukasz Wiśniowski and Julien Vermote were both linked to Sky. On Wednesday afternoon Patrick Lefereve told Cyclingnews that both riders "have propositions from Team Sky," and added that "I have heard they've signed there. Call Dave [ed. Brailsford] but he won't tell you before the first of August. Roughly six hours later, and Cyclingnews heard from one Belgian source that Vermote had re-signed in the evening with Lefevere.
Sticking with the Belgian team, and Lefevere also confirmed that he is still negotiating with Philippe Gilbert, who announced he would leave BMC at the end of the season. The Belgian rider has been linked to a number of teams throughout the summer but Lefevere is the first boss to openly admit that talks are taking place. He can only offer one-year deals due to the current sponsors commitments, leaving him at the negotiation table with one arm tied behind his back. "I can only offer one-year and you know how people are. They're the first to jump from the boat."
Lefevere added that he was 'still in the running' for Tony Martin. The German was heavily linked to Bora during the Tour but recent speculation has included Katusha.
One rider Lefevere is definitely losing is Carlos Verona, who will move to Orica. The Spaniard has been with Etixx since 2013 and Orica would not comment on the transfer but Lefevere added, "I'm not happy at all. I kept him for five years. He was always sick and always injured and we had a lot of patience. Then the first time he does a good race, he leaves. I don't like this. He and his agent said he was interested to stay but he signed with Orica during the Tour."
Orica are close to re-signing Adam and Simon Yates, with Esteban Chaves tied down with an improved deal after his Giro d'Italia exploits. The team is still in the market for a couple of additions and Nick Schultz will ride as a stagiaire for the rest of this campaign.
In Spain, Movistar are unlikely to see any wholesale changes with Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and a gaggle of climbers all under contract for one more season. Imanol Erviti and Winner Anacona are both out of contract, as are Rory Sutherland and Giovanni Visconti. The Australian is expected to stay while Visconti has been linked to Bahrain. Next year will be far more significant on the transfer front, with Quintana, Landa, Fabio Aru, potentially Alberto Contador, and several other GC riders all on the market. A number of teams are basing their recruitment strategy on patiently waiting one more season before attempting to land a bigger fish next year.
In France the majority of the big names – Nacer Bouhanni, Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Demare and Romain Bardet – already have existing deals and team budgets are relatively modest, meaning that the ins and outs will not be seismic. AG2R, however, are taking in a few interesting names with Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx QuickStep), Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling) and Geniez (FDJ) all joining. Dimitri Claeys (Wanty–Groupe Gobert) is set to move to Fortuneo - Vital Concept along with Arnold Jeannesson from Cofidis.
There are still a number of interesting riders on the market – too many to list – but they include Adam Blythe. The British road champion is currently at Tinkoff but has yet to find a home for next season. It’s highly unlikely that he will sign for BMC, Lotto, or Orica – three teams he's ridden for in the past – but he is looking to remain in the WorldTour. Dimension Data is one team that has been proposed.
Taylor Phinney – despite mid-season rumours – will ride on in 2017 but it is expected that he will not make a decision on his future until after the Olympic Games, where he is targeting the time trial.
LottoNL-Jumbo are still active in the market but have three riders in Moreno Hofland, Sep Vanmarcke and Wilco Keldermann still unsigned. Vanmarcke is set to decide his future in the next fortnight but he has already ruled out joining Etixx-QuickStep.
Finally, Cyclingnews understands that Bjarne Riis is still toying with the idea of running a Pro Continental team in 2017, with Michael Rogers currently vetting riders at the Dane's request.