With the European road season now firmly behind us, and most rosters secured for next season, Cyclingnews takes a look at the 2019-20 transfer market. We delve into the ins and outs, and analyse who's gone where, and which teams have dealt themselves a stronger or weaker hand.
In our first instalment, we looked at AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, Bahrain-McLaren and Bora-Hansgrohe, followed by CCC Team, Deceuninck-QuickStep, NTT Pro Cycling, EF Education First and Groupama-FDJ, and then Team Ineos, Jumbo-Visma, Lotto Soudal, Mitchelton-Scott and Movistar.
In this fourth instalment, we take a closer look at the signings at, and departures from, Sunweb, Trek-Segafredo, UAE Team Emirates, Cofidis and Israel Cycling Academy.
Overview: Dumoulin departure turns the team on its head
In: Florian Stork (Sunweb Development Team), Nico Denz (AG2R La Mondiale), Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar), Alberto Dainese (SEG Racing Academy), Mark Donovan (Team Wiggins), Thymen Arensman (SEG Racing Academy), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), Martin Salmon (Sunweb Development Team), Nils Eeckhoff (Sunweb Development Team), Felix Gall (Sunweb Development Team), Ilan Van Wilder (Lotto Soudal U23)
Out: Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Max Walscheid (Dimension Data), Roy Curvers (retires), Johannes Fröhlinger (retires)
Extended: Michael Matthews (2021), Søren Kragh Andersen (2022), Michael Storer (2021), Martijn Tusveld (2021)
A sorry, sorry transfer window sees Tom Dumoulin depart for Jumbo-Visma and the team turned on its head. After winning the Giro d’Italia in 2017, Dumoulin signed a bumper contract that would keep him at Sunweb until the end of 2022. He was the present and the future and, as sponsors came on board, the team was built around him. That edifice has now come crumbling down, with a complete breakdown in the relationship between rider and team following his exit from this year’s Giro.
Sunweb didn’t have to let Dumoulin go, and the wisdom of doing so has to be questioned. They will argue that keeping an unhappy rider against his will wouldn’t be conducive to team spirit, and it is a team that prizes the collective over the individual. They may also point to a financial settlement. But those arguments look weak when you see they haven’t brought in any sort of replacement. Sam Oomen is still young and hasn’t raced since the Giro, while Wilco Kelderman has top 10s to his name but doesn’t look like a Grand Tour podium finisher. Both are talents, but this was a team that was gearing up to win multiple three-week titles in the coming years with one of the sport’s superstars. Team boss Iwan Spekenbrink may feel he had no other option, but he sees his team massively diminished.
In the positives column, you have Michael Matthews staying for two more years, plus a very promising signing in Tiesj Benoot. The young Belgian never quite found his rhythm at Lotto Soudal but will join Matthews and Søren Kragh Andersen, who has been handed a new three-year deal, as a strengthened Classics unit, while also exploring his potential in stage races. Elsewhere, the team has made a string of young signings, including European under-23 champion Alberto Dainese.
However, all that is overshadowed by Dumoulin’s departure. He follows Warren Barguil, Marcel Kittel, Edward Theuns and Janneke Ensing in tearing up his contract with the team. It can’t be a coincidence, and it’s not a good look.
Overview: Nibali a marquee arrival, but does he answer the problem?
In: Jacopo Mosca (D'Amico-UM Tools), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Antonio Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Alexander Kamp (Riwal Readynez), Juan Pedro Lopez (Kometa), Emils Liepins (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Charlie Quarterman (Holdsworth-Zappi), Kenny Elissonde (Team Ineos), Quinn Simmons (Lux-Strading), Michel Ries (Kometa Cycling Team), Antonio Tiberi [in 2021] (Team Colpack)
Out: Jarlinson Pantano (contract terminated), Markel Irizar (retires), John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal), Michael Gogl (Dimension Data), Fabio Felline (Astana Pro Team), Peter Stetina (retires), Fumiyuki Beppu (Delko Marseille Provence)
Extended: Giulio Ciccone (2021), Kiel Reijnen (2021), Toms Skujins (2020), Ryan Mullen (2021), Alex Kirsch (2021), Jacopo Mosca (2020), Nicola Conci (2021), Niklas Eg (2021), Gianluca Brambilla (2020)
Trek-Segafredo’s long search for a Grand Tour figurehead now sees them land on Vincenzo Nibali. Although Bauke Mollema has consistently plugged away with top 10s, and Chris Horner claimed a surprise Vuelta a España title, the American-Italian team arguably hasn’t had a marquee GC rider since Andy Schleck. Having gone after Geraint Thomas, they signed Alberto Contador for a farewell tour in 2017, which only sort of worked, and then Richie Porte, which definitely hasn’t so far.
Now, they go for another rider well into his 30s in Nibali. The 35-year-old finished on the podium at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta this year, but it was revealing that Bahrain-Merida were so reluctant to offer him the two-year deal he wanted. However, there’s nothing to suggest Nibali is over the hill just yet, and in any case he remains an attractive proposition for a part Italian team with an Italian co-sponsor. Moreover, any questions over short-termism can be answered by pointing to Giulio Ciccone, the rising Italian star who wore the yellow jersey at this year’s Tour de France and was swiftly handed a new two-year deal.
Despite the question marks over the Nibali signing, this is a transfer window in which team boss Luca Guercilena has made a concerted investment in youth. Lopez, Quarterman, Simmons, Ries, and Tiberi are all 22 or under. The pick of the bunch is Simmons, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise since taking up cycling 20 months ago. The American stormed to the junior world-road-race title in Yorkshire in September, and jumps straight to the WorldTour with shades of Deceuninck-QuickStep's Remco Evenepoel.
Simmons may slot straight into a Classics group that has been misfiring in recent years. Degenkolb moves on, but there’s a sense that’s more than compensated for by Mads Pedersen’s newfound status as world champion.
Overview: Matxin continues to invest in youth as he builds his squad
In: Brandon McNulty (Rally UHC), Mikkel Bjerg (Hagens Berman Axeon), Andres Camilo Ardila (EPM-Scott), Alessandro Covi (Colpack), Maximiliano Richeze (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), Joe Dombrowski (EF Education First), David de la Cruz (Team Ineos)
Out: Simone Consonni (Cofidis), Dan Martin (Israel Cycling Academy), Simone Petilli (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Rory Sutherland (Israel Cycling Academy), Manuele Mori (retires), Roberto Ferrari (retires)
Extended: Tadej Pogacar (2023), Alexander Kristoff (2021), Sven Erik Bystrom (2021), Marco Marcato (2020), Aleksandr Riabushenko (2020), Rui Costa (2021)
Joxean Fernandez – or Matxin, as he goes by – is officially the sporting manager of UAE Team Emirates, but the talent scout in him still burns bright. Having landed the likes of Fernando Gaviria, Alvaro Hodeg and Fabio Jakobsen while scouting for QuickStep, the Spaniard has made his eye for young talent the central aspect of the squad he’s trying to build at UAE. Having signed Tadej Pogacar, Cristian Munoz and the Oliveira twins 12 months ago, things have been taken to a new level in this window.
Mikkel Bjerg is the biggest time trial talent in the sport, having won the past three U23 world titles. Brandon McNulty finished on two of those podiums, and is an all-round talent considered USA’s brightest stage-racing prospect. Camilo Ardila is another one off the Colombian production line, winning two stages and the overall at this year’s Baby Giro. Covi, who technically signed last year, was fourth in that Giro. They’re all 21 or under, bringing the average age down to below 27 – the third lowest in the WorldTour.
It’s been three years since the transition from Lampre to UAE, but there’s a sense Matxin has come in and set about building a squad for the future.
In the here and now, bringing in Max Richeze to reunite with Fernando Gaviria should reap rewards after a tough season for the Colombian. Having his trusted lead-out man from QuickStep back in front of him is what he needs to return to the top of the sprinting ranks. Dan Martin’s exit is more than made up for by Tadej Pogacar’s immediate emergence as a Grand Tour contender, for which the Slovenian has swiftly received a big contract extension. Davide Formolo could well kick on after an encouraging couple of seasons at Bora, although Joe Dombrowski and David de la Cruz will take some reviving.
Overview: Viviani propels the French team to the WorldTour
In: Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Fabio Sabatini (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Gobert), Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates), Attilio Viviani (Sangemini-MG.Kvis), Eddy Finé (VC Villefranche Beaujolais), Fernando Barcelo (Euskadi-Murias), Julien Vermote (Dimension Data), Piet Allegaert (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise)
Out: Bert Van Lerberghe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Hugo Hofstetter (Israel Cycling Academy), Julien Simon (Total Direct Energie), Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), Zico Waeytens (retires), Filippo Fortin (Felbermayr-Simplon), Geoffrey Soupe (Total Direct Energie), Loïc Chetout
Extended: Jesus Herrada (2021), Natnael Berhane (2021), Nicolas Edet (2021)
Cofidis are very much part of the furniture of pro cycling, yet it’s been a decade since they operated at the sport’s top level. Now, two years into Cedric Vasseur’s reign, they’re back in the big time. The team has had a strong season to ensure it met the qualification criteria for the expanded WorldTour, and it has an increased budget to match.
Much of that has been spent on Elia Viviani, who is the marquee signing and the big statement of intent. The Italian has been the most successful sprinter in the world over the past two seasons, and almost guarantees the team victories at the biggest races. Ending a dreadful run of 11 Tours without a stage win is top of the priority list.
Guillaume Martin could be a very shrewd signing. The Frenchman, 12th overall at this year’s Tour de France, is nowhere near as high-profile as Viviani, but is highly rated, and there’s a sense that his full potential has yet to be unlocked.
Elsewhere, some dead wood is shifted, including Nacer Bouhanni, whose relationship with the team hit rock bottom a long time ago and whose departure freed a good chunk of the budget. Most of it has been invested in Viviani, with his old lead-out man Fabio Sabatini, Madison parter Simone Consonni and brother Attilio all joining. Julien Vermote, likewise, can play a role in the early parts of the lead-out.
Cofidis are back in the WorldTour, and Viviani is very much the talisman leading them into this new chapter.
Overview: A step into the big time after acquiring Katusha's WorldTour licence
In: Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis), Itamar Einhorn (ICA development team), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirate), Patrick Schelling (Vorarlberg Santic), Rory Sutherland (UAE Team Emirates), Travis McCabe (Floyd's Pro Cycling), Rick Zabel (Katusha-Alpecin), Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin), Jenthe Biermans (Katusha-Alpecin), Daniel Navarro (Katusha-Alpecin), Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin), Reto Hollenstein (Katusha-Alpecin), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Andre Greipel (Arkea-Samsic).
Out: Sondre Holst Enger (Riwal-Readynez), Ruben Plaza (retires), August Jensen (Riwal Readynez), Zak Dempster (retires)
Extended: Krists Neilands (2021)
The second new addition to the WorldTour, Israel Cycling Academy make one big splash of their own in Dan Martin, while the team is strengthened by a string of signings from Katusha-Alpecin, whose licence they have taken over.
Martin didn’t have the most successful time at UAE Team Emirates but is still a classy rider who can compete for hilly Classics and finish in the top 10 of Grand Tours. Nils Politt is the pick of the bunch from the old Katusha riders, and his second place in this year’s Paris-Roubaix was the stand-out performance in a very promising 2019 campaign. He could be a hugely important figure in the team in coming years.
Every team needs a decent sprinter, but you question whether Israel Cycling Academy have someone who can deliver at the top level. Andre Greipel is one of the most successful of all time but, after a disastrous year with Arkéa-Samsic, it’s unclear whether he can be the force of old. If not, the signings of Hugo Hofstetter and Travis McCabe only add to what is becoming a pile of fast finishers who could perhaps compete for smaller races but aren’t going to be winning in the WorldTour.