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Nearly 30 WorldTour riders in limbo as contract search spills into 2022

Pozzovivo Burghardt Clarke 2022 contract
Domenico Pozzovivo, Marcus Burghardt and Simon Clarke are among the riders looking for 2022 contracts (Image credit: Getty Images composite)

With 2021 having ticked over into 2022, the new season is upon us but, while most riders are gearing up for their racing returns, there are a number who find themselves left in the lurch. 

With the vast majority of professional rider contracts running from January 1 to December 31, Saturday, for most, marks the start of a new year on their existing deals, or a new dawn with a new team. 

However, for several high-profile riders, it means unemployment. Some have retired of their own volition, some have already called early time on their careers due to a lack of options, while some remain in limbo as they try to keep their careers alive. 

At the start of December, Cyclingnews gave an overview of the WorldTour riders who still had no contracts for 2022 and were still on the market, putting the total at well over 40. With 2022 now underway, several of those riders have confirmed their future plans but nearly 30 are still searching for a ride. 

The biggest development since our last update is the confirmation that the Qhubeka NextHash team will fold due to a lack of sponsorship funding. Nine of the team’s riders were on our original list, with a further five possessing 2022 contracts with the team, which have now been rescinded, even if they will receive financial compensation. 

Among those five were Domenico Pozzovivo, a multiple top-10 finisher at the Giro d’Italia, Simon Clarke, former road captain at EF Pro Cycling and runner-up at the 2019 Amstel Gold Race, and Sergio Henao, former Team Sky leader and Paris-Nice winner. Along with Connor Brown and Sean Bennett, they were hoping the team would find a way to stay afloat and that their contracts would simply roll over, but they have now been left scrambling to find spots on rosters that are largely full. 

“If this situation continues, I think this will be the end of my professional career,” Henao, 34, said last week. “Maybe it's time to move on to a new phase in my life.”

Pozzovivo, despite his 39 years of age, has indicated that he wants to carry on racing, as has Clarke, 35, who gave interviews this week in which he struggled to understand how he finds himself in this position. 

Of the 14 Qhubeka riders on the market at the start of December, only two have found other teams, with Emil Vinjebo and Bert-Jan Lindeman both dropping to Continental level. That leaves Nicolas Dlamini, Carlos Barbero, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg, Robert Power, Andreas Stokbro, Kilian Frankiny, and Dylan Sunderland as riders still to find a ride. 

The next most high-profile rider without a team is Maximiliano Richeze, the Argentine sprinter who became one of the best lead out riders in the world. He struck up a formidable partnership with Fernando Gaviria but was deemed surplus to requirements at UAE Team Emirates. At 38, he already seems to be leaning towards retirement. 

“The idea was to continue one more year because I feel good but in case I don't get a team and I have to leave this year, it won't be a problem either,” he said this week. 

Richeze is set to race the Doble Difunta Correa in San Juan in his native Argentina this month. If he does not go on to grab a ride with the national squad at the Vuelta a San Juan, it could be his final bow. Either way, he looks set to exit on home soil unless a last-minute solution is found.

EF Education-Nippo, who had eight riders on our list last month, have shored up their roster in the past few weeks but it still does not include Lachlan Morton or Alex Howes, although both have options. Morton has been a huge asset for the team with his ‘alternative calendar’ adventure riding and so his road racing commitments could take a back seat entirely next year. Howes, meanwhile, a mainstay of the team since 2012, has been linked with a move to the gravel circuit. 

EF-Nippo have not announced any contract extensions in recent weeks but Jens Keukeleire, Sebastian Langeveld, Jonathan Caicedeo and Tom Scully have all since been registered with the UCI for 2022. Logan Owen and James Whelan, however, have not, with neither revealing any confirmed plans elsewhere. Owen told Cyclingnews last month that he could return to his cyclo-cross roots but that he was also considering a career path away from cycling entirely. 

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert still have four riders from 2021 up in the air – Maurits Lammertink, Riccardo Minali, Alexander Evans, and Jeremy Bellicaud – while Cofidis are the other WorldTour team with the most riders out of contract. Emmanuel Morin has found a ride at Continental level, but Jempy Drucker, Natnael Berhane, and Attilio Viviani are all without teams. 

Veteran Marcus Burghardt, who rode for Bora-Hansgrohe from 2017 is recovering from a severe hand injury and has not yet made a call on his future, while Romain Seigle (Groupama-FDJ), Sebastian Mora (Movistar), and Martin Salmon (Team DSM) are the other WorldTour riders who have been let go. 

The full list of riders without confirmed plans

  • Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe)
  • Natnael Berhane (Cofidis)
  • Jempy Drucker (Cofidis)
  • Attilio Viviani (Cofidis)
  • Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo)
  • Lachlan Morton (EF Education-Nippo)
  • Logan Owen (EF Education-Nippo)
  • James Whelan (EF Education-Nippo)
  • Romain Seigle (Groupama-FDJ)
  • Jeremy Bellicaud (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
  • Alexander Evans (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
  • Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
  • Riccardo Minali (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
  • Sebastian Mora (Movistar)
  • Carlos Barbero (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Connor Brown (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Nicolas Dlamini (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Kilian Frankiny (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Sergio Henao (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Robert Power (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Domenico Pozzovivo (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Andreas Stokbro (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Dylan Sunderland (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Qhubeka-NextHash)
  • Max Richeze (UAE Team Emirates)
  • Martin Salmon (Team DSM)

The riders who have made plans since December 1

Contract extensions

  • Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl)
  • Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)
  • Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-Nippo)
  • Jens Keukeleire (EF Education-Nippo)
  • Sebastian Langeveld (EF Education-Nippo)
  • Tom Scully (EF Education-Nippo)
  • Chun Kai Feng (Bahrain Victorious)

Moves to WorldTour teams

  • Barnabas Peak (BikeExchange) to Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert

Moves to ProTeams

  • Andrea Piccolo (Astana) to Gazprom-RusVelo

Moves to Continental teams

  • Charlie Quarterman (Trek-Segafredo) to Philippe Wagner Cycling
  • Gabriel Cullaigh (Movistar) to Saint Piran
  • Emil Vinjebo (Qhubeka-NextHash) to Riwal Readynez
  • Bert-Jan Lindeman (Qhubeka-NextHash) to VolkerWessels
  • Benjamin Perry (Astana) to Wiv-SunGod
  • Kevin Inkelaar (Bahrain Victorious) to Leopard Pro Cycling
  • Emmanuel Morin (Cofidis) to Team U Nantes Atlantique
  • Norman Vahtra (Israel Start-Up Nation) to Roubaix Lille Metropole

Retirements

  • Scott Davies (Bahrain Victorious)
  • Christoph Pfingsten (Jumbo-Visma)
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.