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Transfer Mechanics: 10 riders still looking for a contract

Transfer Mechanics
Aru, Cavendish, and Nizzolo (L-R) are among the leading riders still on the market (Image credit: Getty Images)

Back in March, Cyclingnews took an in-depth look at how the coronavirus pandemic might affect the transfer market, which was then very much 'on hold'. 

While the redesign of the 2020 season, which has seen all three Grand Tours and four of the five Monuments raced, has steered us clear of the worst-case scenarios, we're into November and a host of quality riders are looking for work next year. 

Here we pick out 10 of the most notable, and assess their prospects for 2021.

Fabio Aru

  • Age: 30
  • Current team: UAE Team Emirates

GRAND COLOMBIER FRANCE AUGUST 09 Arrival Fabio Aru of Italy and UAE Team Emirates during the 32nd Tour de LAin 2020 Stage 3 a 145km stage from Saint Vulbas to Grand Colombier 1501m tourdelain TOURDELAIN TDA on August 09 2020 in Grand Colombier France Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images

Aru has struggled in recent years (Image credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

There had been rumours of a move to Alberto Contador's and Ivan Basso's Eolo-Kometa team, but those were quashed by Basso earlier this week and, with UAE Team Emirates never likely to extend Aru's deal, the former Vuelta a España winner is at cross-roads in his career. 

After struggling at the Tour de France, there’s little WorldTour interest for Aru, while Androni-Giocattoli boss Gianni Savio has told Cyclingnews that even though he talked to the Sardinian it was only on the proviso that a major new sponsor could be found. That hasn’t happened and Savio's final line-up for 2021 will be announced in the next 10 days, leaving Aru with one less door to walk through. 

Trek-Segafredo are full, and, with the Izagirre brothers set to stay at Astana, there’s only a very small chance of a return to Vinokourov’s team even being an option. 

The Italian media have speculated about possible drop down the ranks and into the Italian Pro Team scene where Aru could still race the Giro, but again, those options are limited. 

The disappointing aspect to all of this is that, despite what happened at the Tour and the 'unprofessional' comments that came from team advisor Giuseppe Saronni, there’s still a quality athlete underneath. Aru underwent iliac artery surgery in 2019 ands then was struck by cytomegalovirus at the Vuelta. He has dismissed he is no longer ambitious and motivated but is struggling to find a team that believes he can make a successful comeback. 

Mark Cavendish

  • Age: 35
  • Current team: Bahrain McLaren

BahrainMcLarens British rider Mark Cavendish competes in the GentWevelgem In Flanders Fields one day cycling race 2325 km from Ypres to Wevelgem on October 11 2020 in 2020 in Ypres Photo by DIRK WAEM BELGA AFP Belgium OUT Photo by DIRK WAEMBELGAAFP via Getty Images

Cavendish infiltrated a number of breakaways at the Classics (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

It’s unclear if the door has been completely shut on Cavendish’s chances of being offered a contract extension at Bahrain but after another year without wins and with younger and frankly faster sprinters coming through the ranks, the former great will have limited options in the WorldTour.

Wanty, on paper, looked like a possibility but they’ve confirmed to Cyclingnews that Danny Van Poppel will remain as their sprinter for next season, while several teams that Cavendish might have slotted into a couple of years ago are either fading away – CCC and NTT - or have significant upgrades already on their books.

If Cavendish doesn’t return to anything like his best, he still offers experience and exposure but, in a bloated market and with so many young athletes willing to take close to minimum wage, team bosses have a tough choice on their hands. 

Sentiment doesn’t win bike races but, that aside, Cavendish's final year in the WorldTour would generate more media exposure for a sponsor than almost anyone else on the free market and if - and it’s a huge if - Cavendish can win a few races in 2021 it would be one of the greatest comebacks cycling has ever seen.

William Barta

  • Age: 24
  • Current team: CCC Team

MIRADOR DE ZARO DUMBRA SPAIN NOVEMBER 03 William Barta of The United States and CCC Team during the 75th Tour of Spain 2020 Stage 13 a 337km Individual Time Trial stage from Muros to Mirador de zaro Dumbra 278m ITT lavuelta LaVuelta20 La Vuelta on November 03 2020 in Mirador de zaro Dumbra Spain Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images

Barta put himself in the shop window at the Vuelta (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The 24-year-old came within a whisker of winning his first professional race and his first Grand Tour stage at the Vuelta earlier in the week but, despite those headlines and the fact that he’s riding just outside the top-20 in Spain, the CCC rider is still without a deal for next season. 

The former Axeon rider is more than good enough for the top echelon of the sport and he still has plenty of years of development ahead of him, while his excellent time trial at the Vuelta demonstrated that he’s more than just a jack of all trades. 

There’s a genuine quality engine under that hood that would benefit either a WorldTour team or a top-level ProContinental squad.

Victor Campenaerts

  • Age: 29
  • Current Team: NTT Pro Cycling

Belgium's Victor Campenaerts rode to eighth place in the elite men's time trial at the 2020 World Championships in Imola, Italy

Campenaerts is one of the world's best time triallists (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Doug Ryder is still holding out hope of a rescue package that would keep his team alive for at least one more year and, due to the fragile state of the sport and the glut of riders without teams, it means that the South African could still put together a highly competitive team next year if he can find the funds. 

Campenaerts could well be part of those plans, given that the Belgian has been vocal about his lack of opportunities for next year and the fact that we’re now deep into winter and a number of teams are full. 

Campenaerts’ value has been dented by a year without a win but the reigning Hour Record holder has four second places to his name and a string of other top-tens in a season that hasn’t exactly provided a high number of flatter time trial opportunities.

Unless Ryder can keep the core of the NTT team in the WorldTour then Campenaerts could find himself riding at ProTeam level next season but that would still provide the Belgian with a competitive race programme and plenty of freedom.

Sergio Henao

  • Age: 32
  • Current team: UAE Team Emirates

Sergio Henao

Henao on the attack (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

There’s currently no contract extension on the table at UAE Team Emirates but the Colombian is considering either returning home to race domestically or hanging up his wheels if an offer isn’t made in Europe. 

At 32, the former Team Sky rider still has plenty to give. Although he’s no longer the rider who won Paris-Nice or even finished in the top 10 in the Giro d'Italia back in 2012, he’s still a highly dependable mountain domestique who would fit in at any number of WorldTour teams, such as Astana or the newly promoted Wanty squad, who have said they want to sign quality climbers.

Matthew Gibson

  • Age: 24
  • Current team: Burgos-BH

Matthew Gibson at the Saudi Tour

Gibson at the Saudi Tour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

When you’re heading into a contract year and end up with only 13 days of racing then securing a deal during a global pandemic becomes an almost impossible task, and Gibson is just one of countless young riders in such a position. 

The 24-year-old Briton was winning sprints in the Tour de l’Avenir and the Tour de Normandie a couple of years ago but having only five days of racing in the first six months of this year and then another eight in the space of a few weeks in August and September leaves the Burgos rider with very little to attract the attention of team bosses. 

It might be that Gibson has to drop down a division in order to secure a place on a team but for a ProTeam squad looking for a back-up sprinter he’s still one of the best options around.

Jakub Mareczko

  • Age: 26
  • Current team: CCC

Jakub Mareczko

Mareczko is a sprinter just shy of the top level (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Mareczko is somewhat of a flat-track bully, the sort of rider who can clean up in smaller races dotted around the calendar – especially in Asia – but who struggles against true WorldTour opposition when the real tests occur. 

That said, his record below WorldTour level is impressive and teams still looking for a second string sprinter for their B or C line ups would do well to consider the 26-year-old. 

Given the right race programme he could also be a real threat in some of the smaller French races that are likely to overall with the more important races. At 26, it’s also possible to envisage that he could be transformed into a lead-out specialist at some point in his career.

Roman Kreuziger

  • Age: 34
  • Current team: NTT Pro Cycling

NTT’s Roman Kreuziger – pictured at the 2020 Strade Bianche – will be one of four climbers leading the WorldTour team’s hopes at the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné

Kreuziger brings bags of experience (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

At 34 years of age, and just by looking at his results, Kreuziger is not the force he once was but that’s not to say that his career is over. 

With 18 Grand Tours in the bank, he’s one of the most experienced stage racers in the WorldTour and the fact that he has been a top-five contender at various points in his career - not to mention an Amstel Gold and San Sebastian winner - suggests that he could well take on an older statesmen style role on a squad that needs an extra dimension of leadership and know-how. 

The Czech rider’s preferred option would be to see if Ryder can pull a sponsor out of his hat but he’s also told Cyclingnews that he’s not ready to hang up his wheels just yet.

Robert Power

  • Age: 25
  • Current team: Sunweb

Stage winner and new overall leader Jai Hindley is congratulated by Sunweb teammates Michael Storer and Rob Power

Power (right) congratulates Jai Hindley at the Herald Sun Tour (Image credit: Con Chronis)

Team Sunweb have confirmed to Cyclingnews that the 25-year-old will not be with the team in 2021, and there’s not going to be a return to Mitchelton-Scott, with the Australian team closed to additional riders. 

Six years ago, Power was finishing second overall to Miguel Angel López in the Tour de l’Avenir but the intervening years have been tough on the Australian. A rare bone marrow disease disrupted his 2016 campaign and, although he’s had four years in the WorldTour, progress has been slow. 

His final year with Mitchelton-Scott in 2018 showed flashes of brilliance, with two wins and sixth in a memorable Strade Bianche but, after spending the last two years riding for other riders, there are few results to draw the attention of team managers and scouts.

Giacomo Nizzolo

  • Age: 31
  • Current team: NTT Pro Cycling

PLOUAY FRANCE AUGUST 26 Podium Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy Gold Medal European Champion Jersey Celebration during the 26th UEC Road European Championships 2020 Mens Elite a 17745km race from Plouay to Plouay UECcycling EuroRoad20 on August 26 2020 in Plouay France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Nizzolo is the current European champion (Image credit: Getty Images)

A crash and the subsequent injuries inflicted at the Tour de France robbed the Italian of chance to win his maiden Grand Tour stage but, in a year full of setbacks for NTT, the progress made by Nizzolo has been a rare ray of light. 

The 31-year-old was a force before lockdown with a win apiece in the Tour Down Under and Paris-Nice. The Italian national tittle and the European Championship followed once racing resumed before his Tour crash ended his season. 

There had been rumours of a move to Mitchelton-Scott but with Michael Matthews heading there, and the team seemingly full, Nizzolo is hoping for either Ryder to magic up a sponsor or another WorldTour team to find the space for him. 

A return to Trek isn’t an option, with the general manager ruling out the move on Thursday when approached by Cyclingnews

Movistar are apparently full, too, but the Spanish team are crying out for riders who can win races, while Astana could also do with fast finisher.