With the 2018 road season getting underway Cyclingnews looks at 10 of the most important rider transfers to watch during the coming campaign.
Focusing on the WorldTour, we’ve scoured the market to pick riders from Bora-Hansgrohe, Team Sky, Movistar, Katusha-Alpecin and a host of other teams.
Name: Davide Formolo
Speciality: Stage racing
Will it work: Pragmatism appeared to be the golden rule at Cannondale during the second half of the 2017 season with the American team forced to abandon the development of long-term talents in favour of short-term survival. Dylan van Baarle, Alberto Bettiol, and Davide Formolo were all sacrificed with the team opting to keep Rigoberto Uran on a three-year deal.
Whether the 30-year-old can better his second place from last year’s Tour remains to be seen but the career trajectory of Formolo certainly looks promising. The 25-year-old had solidified his credentials with back-to-back top-10s in Grand Tours, and although time trialing remains a weakness, his climbing talent is unquestionable. The 2018 season promises more of the same with the Giro d’Italia once again part of his programme. Formolo struggled with illness in the second half of 2017 so will want to hit the ground running at his new team.
Name: Peter Kennaugh
From: Team Sky
Will it work: Once tipped as a potential Grand Tour rider, Kennaugh stagnated at Team Sky during his final two years, and bar a stage win at the Criterium du Dauphine in 2017, was rarely given the opportunity to race for himself.
At Bora-Hansgrohe the 28-year-old Manxman will find a better blend of responsibilities, and while at times he will be asked to sacrifice his chances for Peter Sagan and Rafal Majka, he will be afforded chances in a number of WorldTour races.
In a recent interview with Cyclingnews, Kennaugh discussed whether even he himself knew what type of rider he was - given both his eclectic palmares and the lack of service he was provided under Sky’s tutelage. The next two years should offer plenty of definition to this rider's career. Few riders have left Team Sky and gone on to bigger and better things, but Kennaugh still has the time and the talent to buck that trend.
Name: Louis Meintjes
Speciality: Stage racing
From: UAE Team Emirates
To: Dimension Data
Will it work: Having let Meintjes slip through their fingers two years ago Doug Ryder will be over the moon after re-signing South Africa’s best stage racing talent.
Meintjes, still just 25, has notched up three top-10s in Grand Tours over the last three seasons and finished eighth in the last two editions of the Tour de France. Although he is not a regular winner, his consistency in a sport dictated by WorldTour points is of real value.
The next step is for the South African climber to turn those top 10s (there were 10 of them in 2017, including GC results) into podiums and wins. For a rider whose last win came in 2015, more is now expected.
Name: Marcel Kittel
From: Quick-Step Floors
Will it work: When Alexander Kristoff began questioning Katusha’s faith in him after the spring Classics it was clear that there were issues behind the scenes. On a huge contract, and with a lack of results, it was only a matter of time before the move was made for Kittel and Kristoff was jettisoned.
The German sprinter had a hugely successful 2017 campaign and has arguably been the most consistent sprinter on the planet for two years running. With Marco Haller, Rick Zabel and Nils Politt, Katusha-Alpecin have a ready-made lead-out train and the team finally posses a rider who can carry their Alpecin shampoo campaigns.
On a more serious note, Katusha are a team that appear to moving in the right direction, and in Kittel, they have a focal point to rally to and a rider who can guarantee them a dozen wins throughout the year.
Name: Mikel Landa
Speciality: Stage racing
From: Team Sky
Will it work: There’s a significant difference between riding to fourth at the Tour de France and actually wearing yellow into Paris, and although Landa’s 2017 Tour performance had many commentators suggesting that he could have won the race, the fact remains that Landa is still somewhat of an enigma when it comes to stage racing.
A switch to Movistar may only cloud the situation even further. Especially if the primary goal of the team was to #freelanda from his domestique duties. Either the Spanish team have lost faith in Nairo Quintana or they believe that signing Landa will help kick-start the Colombian’s fading powers.
The fact that even in January we’re no closer to knowing who will lead the team in July suggests that there’s no clear division of rank. It will certainly make for intriguing racing but having lost vital power from within the Movistar engine room, signing yet another team leader may not have been the best course of action.
Name: Matteo Trentin
Speciality: Sprinting and one-day racing
From: Quick-Step Floors
Will it work: Mitchelton-Scott do not have the best track record when it comes to signing Italian riders (Ivan Santaromita was their only venture until now) but Trentin should break that mold with his laid-back demeanor and willingness to perform in a number of roles.
That said, the Cyclingnews diarist has been signed with the primary goal of leading the Australian team in the cobbled Classics. The squad has the spine of a strong squad in Mathew Hayman, Jack Bauer, and Luke Durbridge, but Trentin brings a star-quality that could see them compete on another level entirely. While the 28-year-old might not be in quite the same bracket as Sagan and Van Avermaet he has still built up a highly impressive palmares for a rider who was often asked to work for others. If he can reach the spring in his best form and come anywhere close to his 2017 Vuelta a Espana condition then the transfer will be deemed a success.
Name: Dylan van Baarle
Speciality: Classics, potential all-rounder
To: Team Sky
Will it work: Van Baarle has been earmarked as a future Classics winner for some time and it was surprising to see him leave Cannondale-Drapac, especially given the fact that they announced he had re-signed. Their loss is Dave Brailsford’s gain.
With Luke Rowe out of the Classics and Geraint Thomas enlisted only for a cameo in Paris-Roubaix, Van Baarle immediately finds himself vying for leadership with Ian Stannard and Gianni Moscon. Stannard was well short of his best in 2017 and Moscon’s erratic/unsavory behaviour means that the new Dutch recruit finds himself well placed to capitalise. In 2017 he had his best spring yet with three top-10s including a fourth place in the Tour of Flanders. Winning a Monument might not be on the cards just yet but he has time on his side.
Name: Alexander Kristoff
To: UAE Team Emirates
Will it work: The 2014 and 2015 seasons saw Kristoff firmly establish himself as one of the most prominent riders in the peloton. Wins in Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and two stages in the Tour de France warranted a bumper contract with Katusha, but when the wins were replaced by a string of near misses and question marks over his weight it was time to move on.
UAE, with their lavish transfer kitty, were only too willing to tie the Norwegian down for the next two years but the squad are lacking in comparison when it comes to leading Kristoff through sprint finishes. True, the Worlds silver medallist isn’t the type of rider who needs a string of riders to guarantee him success but even in the cobbled races UAE look short of options. Roberto Ferrari and Marco Marcato are 33 and 34, respectively, while Manuele Mori – another possible helper – is 38 later this year. Someone like Simone Petelli has shown promise in a number of areas but this is a team that has signed three proven leaders in Kristoff, Fabio Aru, and Daniel Martin without really addressing the foundations around them.
Kristoff is far from a fading force, his win in the European Road Race Championship and his Bergen silver are a testament to that but a ride at UAE may only make things harder for him in 2018.
Name: Warren Barguil
From: Team Sunweb
Will it work: If you’re going to peak for just three weeks of the year make sure it’s at the Tour de France. Barguil’s dazzling performance last July netted two stage wins, a polka-dot jersey and 10th overall but what was most refreshing was the Frenchman’s willingness to swim against the tide and while so many riders opted for a safety-first approach.
Barguil's Tour ride sparked a move away from Team Sunweb, despite a year remaining on his contract, with Fortuneo willing to make the Frenchman their most prestigious signing to date. On the face of it, the match-up looks perfect. Barguil now has a team around him, entirely dedicated to his needs, while there are no distractions in the form of other GC prospects as there would have been at Sunweb. Having moved out of the WorldTour Barguil can also cherry-pick his races while still taking part in ASO’s flagship events.
Before anyone gets too carried away, it’s worth remembering that bar the 2017 Tour the Frenchman has been somewhat disappointing over the last two seasons – a fact that wasn’t lost on Sunweb when they agreed to let him leave. This might be Barguil’s dream move but with it comes the responsibility of a team leader.
Name: Elia Viviani
Speciality: One day racing, sprinting
From: Team Sky
To: Quick-Step Floors
Will it work: The last spot on this list was a toss-up between Simon Gerrans, Dan Martin, Ian Boswell, Bryan Coquard and Fabio Aru but in the end, we’ve decided to include Elia Viviani.
The Italian won nine races in 2017, all of which coming after his Giro d’Italia snub from Team Sky. As Chris Froome & Co were shutting down the action in Grand Tours, Viviani and a clique of Team Sky riders including Owain Doull and Jonathan Dibben quietly went about their business winning a clutch of races. They even won that convoluted race where you have to finish off your opponent by catching the Golden Snitch [the Hammer Series -ed].
Viviani’s golden touch will be a significant factor for Quick Step Floors, who have lost Marcel Kittel, Matteo Trentin, David de la Cruz, Dan Martin, Julien Vermote, Jack Bauer, Gianluca Brambilla and Martin Velits in the off-season. Collectively those departures accounted for around 25 victories and a top ten at the Tour de France, and although Patrick Lefevere has kept the lion-share of his talent, Viviani will be expected to cover the team’s losses.
At 28 this marks a key season for the Italian. Free from the shackles of Team Sky and track obligations, he will have far more opportunities in 2018, and although Fernando Gaviria will rule the roost and target the Tour de France sprints, Viviani will have far greater support than he was afforded in the past.
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