As November makes way for December, riders move into the final month of their current contracts. Most of them have new deals in place for January and the start of the 2022 season but more than 40 in the men's WorldTour alone are still without plans.
December is the moment riders return to serious, structured training, with the first pre-season training camps to be attended and plenty of winter base miles to be built up ahead of the new campaign. Many riders, however, currently find themselves in limbo, training in the hope of securing a ride for next year.
The biggest question mark hanging over the transfer market is the situation of Qhubeka NextHash. The South African team have not yet secured their future beyond the end of this season, missing the first October deadline to register for a 2022 WorldTour licence.
Team manager Doug Ryder, who was in this very position 12 months ago, has not given up hope and is trying to attract some last-minute funding, but the situation does not look good, given he previously indicated that he would need something to take shape by mid-November.
Back in October, Ryder, unable to guarantee his teams future, allowed all riders with contracts for 2022 and beyond to look elsewhere and sign with other teams. Several of them have done so, including Giacomo Nizzolo, who’s off to Israel Start-Up Nation, and Giro d’Italia stage winner Mauro Schmid, who’s heading to Deceuninck-QuickStep.
There are at least five riders remaining who have contracts for next year if a title sponsor can be found, including experienced road captain Simon Clarke and Colombian climber Sergio Henao. The other two are 25-year-old US rider Sean Bennett, 23-year-old Kiwi Connor Brown and five times a top 10 finisher at the Giro d’Italia Domenico Pozzovivo.
There are other riders on the current roster whose contracts expire at the end of the month and who have not yet finalised plans for 2022. Two key ‘home’ riders are staying loyal for now, with the long-serving Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg also out of contract, along with Nicolas Dlamini, who this year became the first black South African to start the Tour de France.
The other riders without confirmed plans for 2022 are Carlos Barbero, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Robert Power, Andreas Stokbro, Kilian Frankiny, Dylan Sunderland, and Emil Vinjebo.
There are still some potential spots on other teams, who will be poised for potential bargains should Qhubeka-NextHash fold, but several outfits have already finalised their rosters for 2022.
That has left a number of riders at other teams facing the end of the road and, at present, a further 30 WorldTour riders have their futures up in the air, with their 2022 teams still to be confirmed.
The biggest names are Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), although the British pair are only really out of contract on paper. In practice, they are not truly on the transfer market and are both understood to be in the latter stages of finalising the finer details on new deals at their current teams.
QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has already indicated that Cavendish is part of his plans for next year, having resurrected his career at the Belgian team this year, but they have taken time to see eye-to-eye on a possible transition to a staff role following the Manxman’s racing career.
Thomas, meanwhile, has revealed tensions in negotiating his new contract but sources have long since confirmed it is a done deal, even if it hasn’t officially been announced.
Similarly, over at EF Education-Nippo, two key riders are technically out of contract but not really without plans. Lachlan Morton has become one of the US outfit’s most valuable assets, even if his racing calendar has been severely limited. The Australian has earned huge media exposure with his ‘alternative calendar’ adventure riding and it could be that he continues that path but cuts out road racing entirely.
Likewise, former US champion Alex Howes, a stalwart of the team since 2012, has been heavily involved in the off-road side of things, often alongside Morton, and is understood to be considering incorporating more gravel racing in his 2022 racing.
Mikel Nieve, a veteran of 22 Grand Tours and widely regarded as one of the top climbing domestiques in the peloton, was one of the last to secure a team for 2022, stepping down to second-division Spanish squad Caja Rural, where he rode as a junior.
Facing the prospect of a premature end to a storied career is Maximiliano Richeze. The 38-year-old Argentinean lead-out man has been deemed surplus to requirements at UAE Team Emirates, despite the contract renewal of Fernando Gaviria, with whom he forged such a strong partnership at QuickStep. UAE have signed another Colombian sprinter in Alvaro Hodeg for 2022, with a third already on the books in Sebastian Molano.
Richeze, who started his career in 2006 and won sprints at the Giro d’Italia before transitioning into a lead-out role, has not had any concrete offers to continue as a pro. In a recent interview with BiciGoga, he indicated that if nothing materialises, he will look to bring a formal end to his career in January at his home race, the Vuelta a San Juan, where he would have to represent the Argentine national squad.
Other experienced riders without plans include 38-year-old Marcus Burghardt, currently at Bora-Hansgrohe but whose future depends on recovery from repeat hand operations, and Jean-Pierre 'Jempy' Drucker, the 35-year-old who joined Cofidis this year on a one-year deal and was not offered an extension.
“I hope that a team will still give me the chance,” Drucker told Wielerflits last week. “In my head, I am not quite done with cycling yet.”
There are also a number of young riders who find themselves fearing for their futures.
Charlie Quarterman revealed to Cyclingnews in a frank interview last week that he was not happy with the way he was directed towards the exit door at Trek-Segafredo, who handed him a first pro contract in 2020. He is currently fighting to stay at WorldTour level.
Fellow Briton Scott Davies will leave Bahrain Victorious after just 37 race days in two seasons for the team. His 2021 campaign was a complete write-off due to hip surgery and the rider who was once highly touted as a future Grand Tour rider now faces a drop to the second-division ranks or even the British domestic scene.
It’s a similar story for Movistar rider Gabiel Cullaigh, who only turned professional in 2020. Harry Tanfield, who raced for Qhuebka NextHash this year, has already made the decision to return to the UK with Ribble-Weldtite, while James Shaw has shown you can bounce back, impressing at Colin Sturgess’ team and securing a ride at EF Education-Nippo for 2022.
EF themselves have a number of riders at the end of their deals, although some are a case of deals not yet being announced, as with Mark Padun, who is on his way to the American team after being let go from Bahrain Victorious.
Likewise, UAE Team Emirates have confirmed to Cyclingnews that Davide Formolo is staying with the team, despite no formal announcement of an extension to his contract beyond the initial two-year deal he signed from 2020.
List of riders out of contract
- Benjamin Perry (Astana-Premier Tech)
- Andrea Piccolo (Astana-Premier Tech)
- Scott Davies (Bahrain Victorious)
- Chun Kai Feng (Bahrain Victorious)
- Kevin Inkelaar (Bahrain Victorious)
- Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe)
- Natnael Berhane (Cofidis)
- Jempy Drucker (Cofidis)
- Emmanuel Morin (Cofidis)
- Attilio Viviani (Cofidis)
- Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
- Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-Nippo)
- Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo)
- Jens Keukeleire (EF Education-Nippo)
- Sebastian Langeveld (EF Education-Nippo)
- Lachlan Morton (EF Education-Nippo)
- Tom Scully (EF Education-Nippo)
- Logan Owen (EF Education-Nippo)
- James Whelan (EF Education-Nippo)
- Romain Seigle (Groupama-FDJ)
- Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)
- Jeremy Bellicaud (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
- Alexander Evans (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
- Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
- Riccardo Minali (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
- Norman Vahtra (Israel Start-Up Nation)
- Christoph Pfingsten (Jumbo-Visma)
- Gabriel Cullaigh (Movistar)
- Sebastian Mora (Movistar)
- Carlos Barbero (Qhubeka-NextHash)
- Nicolas Dlamini (Qhubeka-NextHash)
- Kilian Frankiny (Qhubeka-NextHash)
- Bert-Jan Lindeman (Qhubeka-NextHash)
- Robert Power (Qhubeka-NextHash)
- Andreas Stokbro (Qhubeka-NextHash)
- Dylan Sunderland (Qhubeka-NextHash)
- Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Qhubeka-NextHash)
- Emil Vinjebo (Qhubeka-NextHash)
- Barnabas Peak (Team BikeExchange)
- Max Richeze (UAE Team Emirates)
- Charlie Quarterman (Trek-Segafredo)
- Martin Salmon (Team DSM)
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