The 2021 season was again dominated by the new generation of riders who are ripping up the rule book, racing like there is no tomorrow and winning the biggest races.
Yet the professional peloton and team lineups are always in movement, ever changing direction and taking shape like a murmuration of migrating birds. 2022 will see a number of fascinating transfers that will change the dynamic within teams and probably in major races too.
Rohan Dennis’ move from Ineos Grenadiers to Jumbo-Visma is a significant example, as is Sam Bennett’s return to Bora-Hansgrohe from Deceuninck-QuickStep, while TotalEnergies have signed Peter Sagan to drive their 2023 WorldTour ambitions.
Cyclingnews takes a look at eight of the biggest rider transfers for 2022.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe to TotalEnergies)
Peter Sagan steps down from WorldTour to ProTeam level for 2022 but don’t call it a demotion.
He will be 32 in January and may be showing signs that he is past his best but his move to TotalEnergies marks a new start for him and for the French team as they target a place in the 2023 WorldTour.
Team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau is hoping that Bora-Hansgrohe’s loss is his gain. The German team have developed massively in recent years on the back of Sagan’s success but their relationship was occasionally tense and Ralph Denk ultimately decided to invest in Sam Bennett, Aleksandr Vlasov, Sergio Higuita and Jai Hindley, all while retaining Wilco Kelderman, Emanuel Buchmann and Nils Politt.
Sagan quickly realised he was no longer welcome and struck a deal with Bernaudeau. They need each other: Sagan needs someone willing to pay his significant salary and guarantee a prima donna role, while the French team needs a stand-out name, a haul of UCI ranking points and someone who can win some major races.
It is unclear if Sagan will take time to mentor the many French riders at TotalEnergies but his massive media presence and results will take the pressure off the likes of Pierre Latour, Alexandre Geniez, Niccolò Bonifazio and Edvald Boasson Hagen, perhaps helping them flourish.
Whatever Sagan’s results in 2022, his transfer will be a success if Team TotalEnergies secure a place in the 2023 WorldTour.
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep to Bora-Hansgrohe)
The Irish sprinter enjoyed a massively successful 2020 season but 2021 has been very different, with his knee injury before the Tour de France sparking a cataclysmic change in his relationship with team manager Patrick Lefevere and leading to his move back to Bora-Hansgrohe.
As Lefevere likes to remind people, Sam Bennett fell out with Bora-Hansgrohe and paid to settle a contract dispute and left in 2019. Yet such is his desire to now escape Lefevere’s control and earn what he thinks he is truly worth, that the Irishman is ready to return to Bora-Hansgrohe, with the hope of making a clean start.
Bora-Hansgrohe believes Bennett can return to his best and replace Peter Sagan and Pascal Ackermann. They have signed trusted wingman and friend Shane Archbold and added Danny van Poppel as a new lead-out man. He may not be as skilled and talented as Michael Mørkøv but if Bennett can return to his best form and carry over the confidence of his time at Deceuninck-QuickStep, he could win a number of big sprints in 2022.
Rohan Dennis (Ineos Grenadiers to Jumbo-Visma)
Jumbo-Visma’s decision to sign the Australian could prove to be one of the best signings for 2022 but could also be one of the riskiest.
Rohan Dennis is a former world time trial champion – having secured the rainbow stripes in 2018 and 2019 – and can help tip the balance of power in the third week of a Grand Tour. Yet he is also infamously difficult to manage, mixing moments of athletic genius with anger and abandon.
Jumbo-Visma arguably have the management skills to harness Dennis’ wild horse character but it remains to be seen how he fits into the team’s roster and how much space he can have to target his own success.
The Dutch super team have Primož Roglič, Tom Dumoulin, Jonas Vingegaard, Sepp Kuss and an ambitious Wout van Aert pushing for key roles in their Tour de France squad. Dennis might have to accept a secondary role and a ride at the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a Espana and target smaller stage races, before heading to Australia to target the World Championships time trial.
João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep to UAE Team Emirates)
The best-funded and most secure WorldTour teams are able to make strategic signings and UAE Team Emirates’ decision to give João Almeida a five-year contract confirms their expanded Grand Tour intentions.
The team have also secured Tadej Pogačar’s long-term presence and believe Almeida can follow a similar career path and win the sport’s most prestigious races, starting with the 2022 Giro d’Italia.
Not many riders choose to leave Deceuninck-QuickStep but Almeida was keen to escape the natural shadow that Remco Evenepoel casts over the Belgian team’s Grand Tour hopes.
“I felt good at Deceuninck-QuickStep but I like the plan UAE Team Emirates have created for me to evolve,” Almeida explained to Cyclingnews.
“They offered me a five-year contract and that underscores the confidence they have in me and the confidence I have in them. I can focus on riding my bike in the years to come and hopefully focus on winning."
Almeida only turned 23 in August and has raced at WorldTour level for just two years but ended the 2021 season in ninth position on the UCI individual world rankings.
He only won his first race in June, proudly securing the Portuguese time trial title but he spent 15 days in the maglia rosa at the 2020 Giro d’Italia and backed that up with another strong finish in this year’s Corsa Rosa taking sixth overall.
Almeida seems to have the ability, persona and patience to go on to win great things. He is arguably the best signing for the 2022 season.
Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers to Astana Qazaqstan)
The Italian Classics rider is also looking to make a clean start with a change of teams for 2022, ending a six-year spell at Ineos Grenadiers for a move to Astana Qazaqstan.
Gianni Moscon started his career with the British team and appeared destined for Classics success, only for his numerous misdemeanors to cast a long shadow over his character, career and eventually his place in the team.
Moscon is softly spoken and shy in person but appears transformed and angry in races, having repeatedly lost control to cross the line of accepted behaviour. He still avoids taking full responsibility for his racist abuse of Kevin Reza, lamenting to the often complicit Italian media that he is the victim of it all.
Astana Qazaqstan will perhaps ignore his past in the hope he can finally be a major Classics contender. His aggressive ride at Paris-Roubaix proved the raw ability is still there and so 2022, with Moscon now aged 27 and at his physical peak, could be a season of racing success.
Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates to Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux)
Riders may transfer between teams as they develop and secure success in the peloton, but also as they grow more mature and move down the hierarchy of the sport. Alexander Kristoff is now 34 and has reached the end of his natural tenure at UAE Team Emirates.
The team have become hugely successful with Tadej Pogačar and have signed João Almeida, Pascal Ackermann and Marc Soler for 2022. Kristoff’s big wins at 2019 Gent-Wevelgem and on stage 1 of the 2020 Tour de France were vital for UAE Team Emirates’ development but gratitude is short lived in pro cycling.
He has perhaps lost some of his speed but will surely play a catalytic role as Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux fight to climb the WorldTour ladder. He will give them some glamour and prestige thanks to his palmares and is still a threat in the hardest Classics and power sprints.
George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma to UAE Team Emirates)
While Jumbo-Visma have gained Rohan Dennis, they have let go George Bennett, losing one of the smart Grand Tour road captains and thinkers in the peloton.
Bennett arguably failed to step up and win big when Jumbo-Visma gave him the opportunity at the 2021 Giro d'Italia but always played his part in Grand Tours, giving his all, until illness or crashes slowed him.
To use a simple football analogy: Jumbo-Visma had too many midfield players, while UAE Team Emirates needed a key playmaker to become even better in the years ahead. Bennett can help Tadej Pogačar target a third Tour de France in 2022, mentor João Almeida at the Giro d’Italia, or maybe do both. He has also been promised his own opportunities and so could win shorter stage races, just as he did at the 2017 Tour of California.
After seven seasons at Jumbo-Visma, Bennett is looking for new motivation that change can bring.
"I lived outside my comfort zone when I was racing as an amateur in France, then for an Italian team and then a Dutch team. I need to get that feeling back to push myself,” he recently told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview.
“I've learnt a lot from Jumbo-Visma so I've got a whole new level to explore and try out. Moving on is a good opportunity for growth."
John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal to Team DSM)
The 32-year-old German is looking to reboot his Classics and sprint career by returning to the team where he emerged and won Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in 2015.
The peloton demographics and the style of pro racing have changed massively since then but John Degenkolb remains ambitious and determined in every race despite two disappointing seasons with Lotto Soudal, after his three years at Trek-Segafredo.
Degenkolb opted to end his contract with Lotto Soudal a year early so he could return to Team DSM and start a three-year contract.
The German-registered team are perhaps the strictest in the WorldTour with their internal rules and protocols. But they were built on Degenkolb’s success and so he appears the ideal rider to help the team rebuild after the problems and defections of 2021.
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