With the revised and shortened UCI calendar set to restart in July and run – as things stand – into November, WorldTour teams will be counting on their all-rounders more than ever, as every imaginable type of race is crammed into just three months.
We take a look at who those versatile riders are, on each of the men's 19 WorldTour squads.
UAE Team Emirates: Diego Ulissi
There was a time when former road race world champion Rui Costa would have walked away with this honour, but his win rate has dropped so dramatically in the last few years that Diego Ulissi gets the nod. The 30-year-old recently signed a new contract with UAE Team Emirates, and it's testament to his consistency that, despite the wave of young riders arriving in recent times, the management made Ulissi one of their priorities.
He typically races a Grand Tour every season and, while his six stage wins have all come in the Giro, it's the breadth of his consistency that stands out. He's capable of being in form for the Tour Down Under in January – a rarity for Europeans – and then peaking again for the Ardennes before rallying for the Giro d'Italia and then the second half of the year – in a normal season, that is.
Other contenders: Rui Costa, Davide Formolo, David de la Cruz
Team Sunweb: Nicolas Roche
Michael Matthews has won more, and certainly has punchier qualities, but Roche is a dependable candidate when it comes to almost any form of racing. During his long career, he's raced 22 Grand Tours and only failed to finish two of them, while his career trajectory has seen him develop from a promising stage race hope into a consistent top-10 rider, and then into a super domestique.
Fatherhood might be catching up with the two-time Irish national road race champion, but his 2019 season saw him race over a number of formats on a regular basis.
He would be one of the first names on the Sunweb roster for almost every race, bar some of the cobbled Classics.
Other contenders: Michael Matthews, Jasha Sutterlin
Jumbo-Visma: Tony Martin
Tony Martin has won 66 races and is certainly Jumbo-Visma's most valuable domestique, but at the same time there's a reason as to why Jumbo-Visma has held onto Maarten Wynants for a decade, and that's because of his ability to perform a variety of roles. He can act as a lynchpin in a lead-out and then move into a road captain role for almost any of the Classics. His climbing is an obvious weakness and probably why he hasn't been raced in a Grand Tour since 2016, and it's there that Martin has the advantage.
With so many Grand Tour riders heading to the Tour, it's Martin who will be requested to chase breaks, set up lead-outs, control the pace, go back for bottles and then make road captain style decisions.
As Wout van Aert develops, meanwhile, he'll move directly into more of a leadership role, and while that won't nullify his versatility, it will alter his style of racing.
Other contenders: Robert Gesink, Wout van Aert, Paul Martens
Team Ineos: Michal Kwiatkowski
Luke Rowe is the best domestique on Team Ineos, and possibly in the peloton, but for sheer ability to win on a number of terrains, the standout candidate is Kwiatkowski. One can only wonder how much more the Polish rider would have won if he had not joined a team with such unadulterated GC ambitions, but the fact remains that the 29-year-old has still won a world title, a Milan-San Remo, an Amstel Gold, several week-long stage races and worked his socks off for Chris Froome whenever the need has been required.
Other contenders: Luke Rowe, Dylan van Baarle, Andrey Amador
NTT Pro Cycling: Edvald Boasson Hagen
Little contest with this one given the fact that Boasson Hagen has been NTT's only consistent performer over the last few years, with GC wins and a number of one-day results that set him apart from the rest of the crew formerly known as Dimension Data.
Ben King is a contender, but Boasson Hagen has the edge given his Tour and Classics pedigree. It's a shame he's had so few genuine leaders to work for over the years, but he was pivotal in Mark Cavendish's resurgence at the Tour in 2016.
Other contenders: Roman Kreuziger, Ben King
Mitchelton-Scott: Daryl Impey
The 35-year-old has won week-long stage races on a consistent basis and worn the maillot jaune at the Tour de France, but there's far more to the South African's career. Since Simon Gerrans departed for BMC Racing and then retired, Impey has taken on the role of one of Mitchelton-Scott's road captains, which has also meant forming part of the sprint lead-out and shepherding the team's GC candidates through the mountains.
He can hold his own over anything that tops out at a category-two climb in a Grand Tour, while his one-day pedigree has been solid rather than spectacular. He's far more than the sprinter he was once considered to be a decade ago.
Other contenders: Simon Yates, Adam Yates, Christopher Juul-Jensen
Lotto Soudal: Thomas De Gendt
A few years ago, Adam Hansen would have been a genuine contender, and a couple of years ago it might have been Tim Wellens, but De Gendt receives the acclaim simply because his engine allows him to provide cover in so many different areas.
Wellens is the better 'closer', and Philippe Gilbert the undoubted headline act at Lotto Soudal, but De Gendt can sacrifice himself for hours on end in order to catch a dangerous break, and then the next day take the pressure off the rest of his teammates by going up the road. He may be considered a breakaway specialist but he's far more than a one-trick pony.
Other contenders: Adam Hansen, Tim Wellens, Philippe Gilbert
Israel Start-up Nation: Nils Politt
Daniel Martin is undoubtedly the most talented rider on the Israel Start-Up Nation team, but unless the road is pointing uphill then his skillset is somewhat limited. André Greipel is the team's marquee sprinter, and has put in a number of quality rides in the Classics over the years, but in terms of versatility it's a close battle between Ben Hermans and Nils Politt.
Hermans is a solid worker in the mountains but it's Politt who looks to have more in the bank. The German had a breakout season in the Classics last year, but can also race against the clock and has a greater capacity when it comes to racing on the flat and setting up others. Before Marcel Kittel hung up his wheels, Politt was considered one of the German's vital lead-out men.
Other contenders: Ben Hermans, André Greipel
EF Education First: Simon Clarke
Alberto Bettiol is stronger in the Classics and against the clock, but he's edged out by his Australian teammate in this instance. Clarke, who has won KOM titles in Grand Tours, is a jack-of-all-trades, and although he's not a specialist in one particular area, he has forged a career through versatility. It's no wonder he has been trusted as EF Education First head sports director Charly Wegelius' eyes and ears in the peloton.
He's a more consistent climber than Bettiol, too, and his own one-day palmarès is more than respectable, even if he hasn't won a Monument.
Alex Howes gets a shout, too, because no matter what terrain or race you drop him in at, he'll do the job you request of him.
Other contenders: Alberto Bettiol, Alex Howes
Deceuninck-QuickStep: Julian Alaphilippe
Some riders are just too good to be ignored when compiling lists of this nature – especially when set against the context of the rest of the Deceuninck-QuickStep team.
Zdenek Stybar can compete in the Classics and Grand Tours, as well as ride as a domestique, while Bob Jungels has several strings to his bow. Remco Evenepoel is still developing, but Alaphilippe is simply unstoppable on virtually every terrain. He can climb with the best in the world, can win time trials, and has the calibre to win every Monument bar Paris-Roubaix.
His sprint from a small group is near-lethal, and the main reason we don't see him perform domestique duties is that he outclasses virtually every specialist on the team.
Other contenders: Zdenek Stybar, Bob Jungels
CCC Team: Serge Pauwels
The Belgian's career has evolved since he turned pro with Chocolade Jacques in 2005, but the former Rabobank development rider has always been a trustworthy teammate who could perform on a number of terrains.
His versatility was pushed front and centre when he rode for Dimension Data and was consistently in breaks through the medium and high mountains at the Tour de France. His palmarès probably doesn't do his talent justice, with just three wins, but he's cracked the top 20 twice at the Tour, won a Giro stage and ridden as a domestique for much of his long career.
The teams that have signed him is a telling point, too: Cervelo and Sky were both building when they picked up the Belgian and needed to cover as many bases as possible, while Omega Pharma (now Decxeuninck-QuickStep) needed riders who could lead out, race the Classics and then perform multiple roles in Grand Tours.
Dimension Data simply needed someone who could gobble up UCI points, while CCC Team needed cover in the Classics and Grand Tours. Fran Ventoso can't climb to the same level, Alessandro de Marchi is more of a breakaway specialist and luxury domestique, while Simon Geschke is the one rider who arguably performs better than Pauwels at the pointy end of races.
Other contenders: Fran Ventoso, Simon Geschke
Bora-Hangsrohe: Maximillian Schachmann
The German's only weakness is his sprint, with results in time trials, one-day races and various stage races. His overall win at Paris-Nice earlier this year for Bora-Hansgrohe demonstrated his skillset, with echelon racing proving just as vital, if not more so, than power against the clock or on the climbs. His Grand Tour experience is limited, but at 26 he has time on his side.
Other contenders: Rafal Majka, Daniel Oss, Peter Sagan
Bahrain McLaren: Dylan Teuns
Another recent Paris-Nice performer – until his team pulled themselves from the race earlier this year due to the coronavirus crisis – Teuns has continued to improve since moving to Bahrain McLaren at the start of last year, and it's little wonder that he's now considered one of the most sought-after riders on this year's transfer market.
Handy against the clock, and proving to be a formidable one-day racer in the Ardennes and races such as Il Lombardia, the Belgian looks destined for the top.
His stage racing is competent enough to see him challenge for week-long honours, while his Grand Tour ambitions are currently set to stage hunting. His 12th in last year's Vuelta, however, suggests that there's more in the locker.
Other contenders: Damiano Caruso, Wout Poels, Heinrich Haussler, Matej Mohoric
Trek Segafredo : Vincenzo Nibali
The Italian has won all three Grand Tours, two editions of Il Lombardia, a Milan-San Remo and 13 Grand Tour stages. His adaptability goes beyond levels displayed by Chris Froome and Alberto Contador – the two other most successful Grand Tour riders of their generation.
Nibali is no slouch when it comes to the Ardennes – basically, the harder the race, the better his chances, and his display on the cobbles of the 2014 Tour de France were a significant step towards victory that year.
He lacks a sprint, and his time trial is solid rather than spectacular, but overall he's the most complete rider at Trek-Segafredo.
Other contenders: Edward Teuns, Gianluca Brambilla, Bauke Mollema, Julien Bernard, Kiel Reijnen
Movistar: Alejandro Valverde
It's simply impossible to look past Valverde, who has shared his 100-plus wins across a number of formats, and over a career that spans three decades. From the Ardennes to Abu Dhabi, Pais Vasco to Paris-Nice, he's been a dominant force with few equals.
A certain Colombian climber might question Valverde's value as a super domestique, and he's been on the wrong side of a few breaks over the years, but in terms of adaptability, he's head and shoulders above his Movistar teammates.
Other contenders: Dario Cataldo, Jose Rojas
Groupama-FDJ : Anthony Roux
Manager Marc Madiot demands certain qualities from his riders, and he clearly sees something in Roux, who has been part of the Groupama-FDJ family since his stagiaire days in late 2007.
The sprinter took his biggest win courtesy of a Vuelta stage in 2009, but has since developed into a lead-out man with staying power. He doesn't have the climbing skills of Rudy Molard – who was in contention – but the fact that he has placed on every step in the French national road race and picked up five top fives in the equivalent time trial nudges him into pole position.
Other contenders: Rudy Molard
Astana : Jakob Fuglsang
In a straight fight between Jakob Fuglsang and Alexey Lutsenko, it's the Dane that comes out on top. It's not because the Dane is the winner of higher-calibre races, but simply because last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner outclasses Lutsenko in almost every department bar pure speed.
It's true that Lutsenko has won more one-day races, but Fuglsang has won so many more high-profile races – over a number of formats – that he has to be considered the most versatile at Astana.
Other contenders: Alexey Lutsenko, Luis Leon Sanchez, Fabio Felline
AG2R La Mondiale : Tony Gallopin
There's far more depth to this team than you might first imagine, with Mikel Cherel and Silvan Dillier both being possible contenders, but the standout candidate at AG2R La Mondiale is Tony Gallopin. The recently turned 32-year-old has raced every Monument at least three times, taken part in 12 Grand Tours and won GC, one-day and time trial races.
He has suffered at times, and been outclassed by elite climbers, but at the same time the former RadioShack and Lotto rider provides cover in a number of departments. He's also solid enough to ride as a super domestique, and on his day he's a formidable opponent when riding in breaks.
Other contenders: Mikel Cherel, Silvan Dillier
Cofidis: Christophe Laporte
The arrival of Elia Viviani at Cofidis this season could have been cause for concern for a fellow sprinter like Laporte, but the humble Frenchman appears to have no problem with the addition of the European road race champion – whose additional skills on the track and ability to get over reasonably sized climbs in fact also make the Italian a contender as one of the team's best all-rounders.
"I would have no problem working for Elia in the biggest races, like the Tour de France, in the pure bunch sprints," Laporte told Cyclingnews at last year's Arctic Tour of Norway once Viviani's signing for 2020 had been confirmed.
Laporte had developed into Cofidis's best sprinter in recent years – partly due to the better-on-paper (but now-departed) Nacer Bouhanni being out of favour with the management – but Laporte has proved his versatility away from bunch sprints, too.
Last season, he beat Tony Gallopin – who also features in this list for AG2R – to win the individual time trial stage at the Tour Poitou-Charentes, and went on to win the overall title at the French stage race.
Earlier in the season, Laporte had further demonstrated his skills against the clock by winning the prologue of the Tour of Luxembourg ahead of sprinting to victory on the following day's stage, and in February last year he won the final individual time trial to defend his lead and take the GC at the Etoile de Bessèges.
Other contenders: Nathan Haas, Elia Viviani
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.