Top 7 transfer successes of 2018

The 2018-2019 transfer market has already gone through pretty much a full swing, with most teams now boasting near-complete rosters for the coming season. Before a fresh group of riders set out to race in their new teams, let's cast an eye back to last season's window. 

While there were a number of high-profile moves that, for whatever reason, didn't live up to their billing - a theme we'll get to in a later article - there weren't quite as many glaring successes as in recent years. But there were nevertheless a couple of standout transfers that paid off spectacularly, along with shrewd acquisitions and coming-of-age performances in fresh colours. 

Cyclingnews has taken a closer look at the pick of the bunch from the last window. 

Egan Bernal (Androni-Sidermec to Team Sky)

Egan Bernal already considered one of the brightest talents in the sport before he pulled on the Team Sky jersey, but his reputation was enhanced with each and every pedal stroke in what has been an extraordinary debut WorldTour season.

The Colombian had been snapped up by Androni Giocattoli manager Gianni Savio three years ago when he was a mountain biker with little experience on the road. In what has become a key part of Savio's business model, Bernal was signed on a four-year deal, leaving WorldTour teams with a hefty fee to buy out the contract when they came knocking. After a string of eye-catching performances in 2016 and 2017 - not least a dominant win at the Tour de l'Avenir - Team Sky reached into their pockets. The investment was returned with interest, and last month Sky were forking out again with a new five-year contract - almost unheard of in modern cycling.

Bernal started strongly with sixth place overall at the WorldTour-level Tour Down Under, and then shone on home soil, landing the elite national time trial title before winning the Colombia Oro y Paz with a dramatic final-stage smash and grab. He then impressed at a true top-level event, sitting second overall at the Volta a Catalunya, only to crash out on the final stage. He bounced back from injury rapidly, and proceeded to win a stage and finish second overall at the WorldTour-level Tour de Romandie in esteemed company. Two weeks later he was on his way to overall victory - via two stage wins - at the Tour of California, another WorldTour event.

It was a remarkable first part of the season, and effectively changed his plans for the second, as a planned Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España was scrapped and Bernal was fast-tracked into Sky's Tour de France squad. There he announced himself on the sport's biggest stage with a remarkable display in service of Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, looking perfectly at home in the company of the world's best GC riders on the key mountain stages, and even finishing in the top 15.

Bernal crashed on his face at the Clásica San Sebastián and finished the season quietly with a string of Italian one-day races, but his 12th place at Il Lombardia was another reminder of his ability.

Team Sky have the financial might to have signed Bernal - and write a big-money long-term contract - without batting an eyelid, but this all seems like a sound investment for a rider who has the world at his feet and could seemingly become a great of the sport. People might be debating whether Froome or Thomas will lead Sky at next year's Tour, but the future is Bernal.

Elia Viviani (Team Sky to Quick-Step Floors)

Another rider who broke his contract to join a new team, Elia Viviani's jumping aboard the Quick-Step train turned out to be an inspired leap of faith.

The Italian had a solid three-year spell at Team Sky - and also won an Olympic title on the track - but his road career has well-and-truly taken off in Quick-Step blue. With 18 wins, he ended the year as the top sprinter in Cyclingnews' ranking, and no doubt too in the more subjective standings in the minds of the fans.

There was little animosity in Viviani's departure from Sky; circumstances simply aligned and he took a chance he thought too good to miss. The Italian had been a popular figure at Sky but was never given much support and found Grand Tour starts hard to come by given them team's almost tunnel-visioned focus on general classification. Quick-Step were pretty much the opposite, with arguably the strongest lead-out department of all, and the signing of Viviani proved to be one of the shrewdest transactions of long-standing boss Patrick Lefevere's career.

Viviani was essentially a replacement for Marcel Kittel, who was the star sprinter of 2017 with five wins at the Tour de France. Yet such was the promise shown by rising star Fernando Gaviria - four stage wins on his Grand Tour debut at the Giro - the Colombian was moved ahead of the German into the position of number-one sprinter and Tour de France leader for 2018. Kittel duly had to move elsewhere, joining Katusha-Alpecin, leaving a space for a sprinter on the secondary race programme with the secondary lead-out train.

Viviani has flourished in that role, winning on no fewer than 18 occasions this year. The quality has been there, too, with four wins and the points jersey at the Giro and three wins and the points jersey at the Vuelta. He has gelled particularly well with Fabio Sabatini and Michael Morkov. 

In the midst of financial uncertainty, Gaviria himself broke his contract to move to UAE Team Emirates, meaning Viviani is now at the top of the Quick-Step food chain - though it must be pointed out that Fabio Jakobsen and Alvaro Hodeg both had stunning neo-pro campaigns.

Ruth Winder (UnitedHealthcare to Sunweb)

Having ridden on and off for the UnitedHealthcare team in recent years, Ruth Winder moved to full-time racing in Europe with Team Sunweb this season. The 25-year-old British-born American had proved herself a promising talent with victories at the Joe Martin Stage Race and Redlands Bicycle Classic in 2017, as well as podium places at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Lotto Belgium Tour.

She was following in illustrious footsteps after Coryn Rivera made the same move the previous season. The opening part of the year was a steep learning curve for Winder, but she soon found her feet. The Giro Rosa would turn out to be the breakthrough for Winder with victory in the team time trial followed by individual success a few days later when she won from the breakaway on stage 5. The feat would earn her a day in the race's pink jersey before handing it off to Amanda Spratt.

A month later, Winder would be part of the Sunweb team that won the Ladies Tour of Norway team time trial. In September, she won two stages of the Tour de l'Ardeche before closing out her season with an impressive 10th at the World Championships.

As debut seasons in Europe go, it was a strong one for Winder and there is plenty to build on in the coming years.

Matej Mohoric (UAE Team Emirates to Bahrain-Merida)

Expectation has trailed Matej Mohoric ever since his back-to-back world road race titles at the junior and then U23 level in 2012 and 2013, and while four years might seem a lengthy wait for that talent to flourish at the top level, 2018 was the season where things finally clicked into gear for the Slovenian.

It's easy to forget how young Mohoric is. At 24 he is still very much in development phase, even if those world titles and his move to the WorldTour at the tender age of 19 have seen his performances scrutinised for five full years. Mohoric's first pro win came at the Tour of Hainan in 2016, and then in 2017 he claimed his first major success with a stage win at the Vuelta a España. Perhaps it was a turning point, because he has won eight races in 2018, since swapping UAE Team Emirates for Bahrain-Merida.

The first came at the GP Industria & Artigianato and then another Grand Tour win came from a breakaway at the Giro d'Italia. After winning the Slovenian national road race title and a Tour of Austria stage in June and July, Mohoric had a fine late-season run, picking up the overall titles at both the BinckBank Tour and the Deutchsland Tour.

Mohoric's all-round ability - he's particularly strong when descending - was in full display this year. It seems like 2018 was the year he finally started to build on his potential, but it also gave the impression bigger and better things are still to come. As Vincenzo Nibali said: "He's a complete rider and it's difficult to know what his limits are because he can still develop a lot."

Mikel Nieve (Team Sky to Mitchelton-Scott)

He may not have caught the eye in the same way as Viviani and Bernal, but Mikel Nieve proved very good value for money in his first season with Mitchelton-Scott.

The Spaniard, who used to ride for the Basque Euskaltek-Euskadi squad before its collapse in 2013, had showcased his credentials as a mountain domestique at Team Sky, helping Chris Froome to victory at the 2016 and 2017 Tours de France and 2017 Vuelta a España. He was exactly the sort of figure Mitchelton-Scott needed as they continued their transformation into a Grand Tour team, with the Yates twins and Esteban Chaves all coming of age. The team had been developing into a squad that could support a leader over three-weeks but Nieve was the out-and-out climber they had perhaps been lacking.

They sent him to the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France this year. In Italy, he and Jack Haig were Simon Yates' closest allies as the Briton took the race by storm and won three stages. His collapse two days from Rome was a bitter pill to swallow, and Nieve almost had to slow to a standstill to wait for his ailing leader on the Colle delle Finestre, but the Spaniard then made the most of a bad situation by using his newfound freedom to win the final mountain stage to Cervinia.

Things fell apart rather sooner at the Tour de France, as Adam Yates fell out of contention in the heat half-way through, and Nieve almost repeated his trick, only to be caught agonisingly shy of the line by Geraint Thomas and co up at La Rosière. Nieve wasn't in the squad that won the Vuelta with Simon Yates, but that victory saw them arrive as a Grand Tour-winning team, and the rider they call 'Frosty' will add to the belief they can repeat the feat in 2019.

Jolien D'hoore (Wiggle High5 to Mitchelton-Scott)

Jolien D'hoore's transfer from Wiggle High5 to Mitchelton-Scott for 2018 turned out to be a good move for the Belgian sprinter. She had spent three seasons with Wiggle High5, building her career as one of the top sprinters and Classics riders in the peloton, but the team had several other riders with similar abilities along with targets for mountainous races that didn't always align with a sprinter's dream schedule.

Her move to Mitchelton-Scott, a team that lacked a solid sprinter, gave her the outright leadership of that category. The team already had contenders for the Classics such as Annemiek van Vleuten, Amanda Spratt, Gracie Elvin and Sarah Roy, but D'hoore was granted opportunities where they fit her skills best. She not only proved to be useful in the one-day flatter races but she also gave the team sprint options in the stage races, too.

D'hoore kicked off the season with a series of top 10s before landing a victory on the Women's WorldTour at Brugge-De Panne, and then placed second at Gent-Wevelgem, where she briefly took the prestigious series lead. Her defense at the Tour of Chongming Island was marred by a crash in the opening stage and she finished an underwhelming 8th overall. She then broke her collarbone in a crash on the track in the spring but bounced back to the opening stage of the OVO Energy Tour and two stages of the Giro Rosa.

Her stint at Mitchelton-Scott didn't last long, however, as she has signed a new contract to race with Boels-Dolmans in 2019.

Omar Fraile (Dimension Data to Astana)

Omar Fraile has been touted as a rider with more to give for a number of years now, and 2018 saw the Spaniard double his career win tally with a trio of WorldTour-level scalps.

Having spent his first four years as a professional at Spanish pro Contin outfit Caja Rural, Fraile stepped up to the WorldTour with Dimension Data in 2016 and honed his craft as a stage hunter in the medium mountains, landing a stage win at the 2017 Giro.

In 2018 he has made further progress, winning at the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Tour de Romandie in April, and then at the Tour de France with a nicely-taken win at Mende ahead of Julian Alaphilippe. He can climb and, as evidenced in his victory over Sonny Colbrelli at Romandie, he is very dangerous in a reduced sprint.

Fraile continues to progress and perhaps the next step is to improve in the hilly classics, especially with Michael Valgren leaving the team. 

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