With less time than ever coming between the end of the COVID-19 disrupted 2020 season and the start of the 2021 season, professional cycling has swiftly switched focus to the upcoming season.
Most of the transfer business has now been done despite some teams being severely limited in their moves due to the financial impact of the pandemic. However there have been plenty of movement, as we saw in our first instalment of this series.
Here, we cover six more teams – all with clearly different outlooks and plans in the market this year. Read on for our look at American squad EF Pro Cycling, the ins and outs at GreenEdge, consolidation at Groupama-FDJ, a new face in Intermarché-Wanty, more big spending at Israel Start-Up Nation, and a recalibration at Lotto Soudal.
EF Pro Cycling
Overview: It's certainly a weaker EF squad, though they still have the strength to fight on several fronts through the season
In: Stefan Bissegger (neo-pro, as of August 2020), Hideto Nakane (Nippo Delko), Michael Valgren (NTT), Will Barta (CCC), Fumiyuki Beppu (Nippo Delko), Julien El Fares (Nippo Delko), Diego Camargo (neo-pro), Daniel Arroyave (neo-pro), Julien El Fares (Nippo Delko)
Out: Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Tanel Kangert (GreenEdge), Daniel Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers), Kristoffer Halvorsen (Uno-X), Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation), Simon Clarke (Qhubeka Assos), Sean Bennett (Qhubeka Assos)
Extended: Alberto Bettiol, Lachlan Morton, Tejay van Garderen, Julius van den Berg, Moreno Hofland, Rigoberto Urán, Sebastian Langeveld
Analysis: There are some big names on the way out at the American team, who have suffered from the pandemic just as any other. They've lost a Classics leader in Vanmarcke as well as a duo of climbers and stage hunters in Michael Woods and Daniel Martínez, while versatile road captain Simon Clarke has also moved on. The signing of several riders from Nippo Delko a clear indication that the Japanese construction company will join EF as a key sponsor in 2021.
Meanwhile, the largest incoming name is Michael Valgren, the Danish Classics all-rounder who comes from two years spent at NTT. It hasn't been a happy time for the 28-year-old, who hasn't won a race since 2018 and only grabbed three top 10 finishes in 2020.
His previous record, however, gives cause for hope. At Astana he won Amstel Gold Race and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, as well as finishing fourth at the Tour of Flanders. EF will be hoping to help him return to that kind of form if they're to fill the gap Vanmarcke leaves.
Time trial specialist Barta and domestique Beppu will be reliable presences, though less is known about the Colombian youngsters Camargo and Arroyate. This year, 22-year-old Camargo won the Vuelta a Colombia and finished 11th at the Tour Colombia 2.1, marking him down as a rider with GC potential, while 20-year-old Arroyave is U23 national champion.
Those deals, as well as Rigoberto Urán's contract renewal, are linked to an expected sponsorship deal with the Colombian government, and the team will be leaning heavily on the 33-year-old and younger compatriot Sergio Higuita going forward after the losses of Woods and Martínez.
We can also look out for development from those already at the team, with Hugh Carthy progressing to third at the Vuelta a España, Ruben Guerreiro breaking out with a stage and the blue jersey at the Giro d'Italia, and Stefan Bissegger embarking on his first full season at EF.
Overview: Some big GC losses for the Australian squad but the return of Matthews guarantees quality wins
In: Kevin Colleoni (neo-pro) Tanel Kangert (EF Pro Cycling), Michael Matthews (Team DSM), Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Jumbo-Visma)
Out: Daryl Impey (Israel Start-Up Nation), Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma), Michael Albasini (retires), Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious)
Extended: Simon Yates, Tsgabu Grmay, Lucas Hamilton, Luka Mezgec, Luke Durbridge, Cameron Meyer, Robert Stannard, Callum Scotson, Alex Edmondson, Damien Howson, Nick Schultz, Sam Bewley, Jack Bauer, Dion Smith, Brent Bookwalter
Analysis: The Australian squad has endured a tough, testing year off the bike in 2020, its future under threat at one point, before they were caught up in a farcical takeover/sponsorship attempt by the Manuela Fundacíon. Team owner Gerry Ryan cut funding but then stepped back in to keep the team alive. The result is a relatively quiet transfer campaign, though one with a couple of substantial signings.
The headline names are, of course, Michael Matthews and Adam Yates. The versatile Australian sprinter returns 'home' for 2021 after a mixed season which saw Team Sunweb deny him a ride at his season goals – the Tour de France and Classics – by sending him to the Giro.
The writing was on the wall for him to leave after the Tour snub, and GreenEdge duly snapped him up despite his contract running through 2021. Now, as an undisputed 'head of state' at GreenEdge, he won't have to worry about being shunted around the calendar.
Matthews brings top quality, too – stretching back to 2014, 22 of his past 25 wins have come at WorldTour level, with eight of those coming in the past three years. He'll win races for GreenEdge, and they're likely to be at the top level.
On the other hand, Adam Yates is a big loss, even if he has endured a Grand Tour results slump dating back to the 2016 Tour de France. His wins and top GC placings will be missed, though his twin Simon, winner of the 2020 Tirreno-Adriatico winner remains. The hugely talented Jack Haig is another who will be missed.
Daryl Impey is another loss, with the 36-year-old road captain and 2019 Tour stage winner heading to ISN. Domestiques Jansen and Kangert come the other way, while 20-year-old Colleoni is an interesting prospect having put in a string of top results in the Italian U23 scene recently, including third at the U23 Giro.
Overview: Tinkering around the edges at the French squad, who have consolidated rather than overhauled
In: Jake Stewart (neo-pro as of Oct 1), Matteo Badilatti (Israel Start-Up Nation), Clement Davy (neo-pro), Attila Valter (CCC Team), Lars van den Berg (neo-pro)
Out: Marc Sarreau (AG2R La Mondiale), Kilian Frankiny (Qhubeka Assos)
Extended: Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Démare, David Gaudu, Stefan Kung, Rudy Molard, Jacopo Guarnieri, Kevin Geniets, Olivier Le Gac, Mathieu Ladagnous, Miles Scotson, Sebastien Reichenbach, Tobias Ludvigsson, Antoine Duschene, Ignatas Konovalovas, William Bonnet
Analysis: It has been an extremely quiet off-season for the French squad, who seem to be largely content with what they have rather than making any big moves or starting any radical overhauls.
The departure of Marc Sarreau is the most notable name on the incoming/outgoing list, though with no wins since 2019 and none at all at WorldTour level, he's not the biggest loss.
Davy and Van den Berg are the latest youngsters to graduate from the Groupama-FDJ Continental team, while Jake Stewart will embark on his first full season at the WorldTour squad having impressed in his call-ups during 2020, which included second overall at the Tour du Limousin.
Elsewhere, 22-year-old Valter, who joins from the folding CCC Team, will be one to watch having won the Tour de Hongrie and completed his first Grand Tour at the Giro this season.
The big picture, though, is that all the big names are back for next year. Pinot and Gaudu return to lead the GC charge, while Démare and lead out man Guarnieri will look to repeat their extremely successful 2020 season and Euro TT champion Küng has also re-signed.
There's no real need to make big changes when things are going right, after all. The question is how will they all fit in the eight-rider Tour de France squad.
Overview: Wanty make the big step up to the WorldTour but their squad is far from the strongest
In: Rein Taaramäe (Total Direct Energie), Lorenzo Rota (Vini Zabù-KTM), Baptiste Planckaert (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Jan Hirt (CCC), Georg Zimmerman (CCC), Jonas Koch (CCC), Louis Meintjes (Qhubeka Assos)
Out: Fabien Doubey (Total Direct Energie), Timothy Dupont (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Fenix), Yoann Offredo (retires), Alfdan De Decker (Tartoletto-Isorex)
Extended: Loic Vliegen, Andrea Pasqualon, Kevin Van Melsen, Pieter Vanspeybrouck, Andrea Pasqualon, Pieter Vanspeybrouck, Jan Bakelants, Tom Devriendt
Analysis: Most commentators have already pencilled the WorldTour's newest squad as among the weakest in cycling's top division and looking at their squad it's hard to argue against that.
The step-up to WorldTour did come late, with the Belgian team's takeover of CCC Team's operating company Continuum Sports only at the end of September. With the market already in full swing by then, adding to the squad in just a couple of months was always going to be tough, especially on a smaller budget than a lot of teams. However securing Belgian supermarket group Intermarché as a new title sponsor is a sign of growth.
Several useful riders – Dupont, Doubey and Vuelta a Murcia winner Meurisse – have left, though the greater interest is in who the team has brought on board.
South African climber Meintjes is the biggest name to sign, having twice finished in the Tour de France top 10. That was before his recent three-year spell at NTT, though, where he's only once finished top five at a race, and where his best Grand Tour result was 36th at this year's Giro.
Intermarché-Wanty will be banking on helping him get somewhere close to his best next year as they go from partcipating in zero Grand Tours to all three.
Hirt is another GC rider who had his moments, winning the 2016 Tour of Austria and finishing 12th at the 2017 Giro. 23-year-old Zimmermann, who joins him in moving from CCC, showed promise at the Vuelta, too.
Other signings include Planckaert, who has yet to replicate his 2016 season, and Rein Taaramäe, who has Giro and Vuelta stage wins to his name. There is quality in the squad, then, including the veterans Andrea Pasqualon and Jan Bakelants, but as things stand the 2021 season looks like it'll be a big challenge for this squad.
Israel Start-Up Nation
Overview: More stars join the ambitious Israeli squad with all eyes on Froome
In: Sebastian Berwick (neo-pro), Patrick Bevin (CCC), Alessandro De Marchi (CCC), Chris Froome (Ineos Grenadiers), Carl Fredrik Hagen (Lotto Soudal), Daryl Impey (GreenEdge), Taj Jones (neo-pro), Sep Vanmarcke (EF), Michael Woods (EF)
Out: Matteo Badilatti (Groupama-FDJ), Travis McCabe (retires), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Rory Sutherland (retires)
Extended: André Greipel, Mads Wurtz Schmidt, Rick Zabel, Alex Cataford, James Piccoli, Mathias Brändle, Tom Van Asbroeck, Rudy Barbier, Alex Dowsett, Guy Niv, Guy Sagiv, Omer Goldstein, Itamar Einhorn
Analysis: Once again, ISN have made a splash. Last season, the Israeli team nabbed Katusha's place in the WorldTour and raided the market in the process, signing up big names in Dan Martin, André Greipel, Alex Dowsett and Nils Politt.
They've repeated the feat during this off-season, strengthening once again as billionaire co-owners Sylvan Adams and Ron Baron take aim at the top of the WorldTour. The signing of four-time Tour de France winner is the headline move, but there's far more to their window than the Briton.
At 35 years of age and with a tough, long recovery from his near career-ending 2019 crash still ongoing, there are big question marks over whether he'll make it back to contention at a Grand Tour. Adams has insisted Froome's numbers are on track, though, so we'll have to wait and see.
A slew of other strong climbers have signed up in order to support him, with double-Vuelta stage winner Woods joining on a three-year deal, Italian breakaway specialist Alessandro De Marchi signing on for two years and Norwegian climber Carl Frederik Hagen also joining for two.
ISN's nascent Classics squad also gets a new leader too, with Politt off to Bora-Hansgrohe after one season and experienced contender Vanmarcke joining in his place. Meanwhile, in Impey and Bevin, the team will enjoy the services of two versatile men next year.
Project Froome will hog the headlines but even if that don't quite work out, the team – which took their first two Grand Tour stages at the Giro and Vuelta this season – is much improved, nonetheless.
Overview: A youth revolution at Lotto as a number of veterans are moved on
In: Sébastien Grignard (neo-pro), Andreas Kron (Riwal Securitas), Kamil Malecki (CCC), Sylvain Moniquet (neo-pro), Maxim Van Gils (neo-pro), Florian Vermeersch (neo-pro, as of June 2020), Viktor Verschaeve (neo-pro), Filippo Conca (neo-pro), Xandres Vervloesem (neo-pro), Harry Sweeny (neo-pro)
Out: Stan Dewulf (AG2R Citroën), Carl Fredrik Hagen (Israel Start-Up Nation), Adam Hansen (retires), Nikolas Maes (retires), Remy Mertz (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Jonathan Dibben (retires), Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Sander Armée (Qhubeka Assos)
Extended: Thomas De Gendt, Tosh Van der Sande, Tomasz Marczynski, Harm Vanhoucke
Analysis: There's lots of change at the Belgian squad for 2021, as they dispense with a number of long-standing team members and replace the veterans with a cluster of neo-pros.
39-year-old Hansen heads to Ironman triathlon after nine years at the squad, while 34-year-old Nikolas Maes (four years) also retires. 35-year-old Sander Armée (seven years) and 31-year-old Jelle Wallays (five years) are also moving on, as are several younger rider younger riders like 22-year-old Dewulf, 25-year-old Mertz and 26-year-old Dibben.
Carl Frederik Hagen, who finished top 10 at his Grand Tour debut, the 2019 Vuelta, looks the biggest loss in terms of outright talent, though he struggled in 2020. He'll be working for Froome at ISN next year.
The team has suffered a reported €2 million budget shortfall for 2021, though boss John Lelangue has said that their transfer philosophy is "not a matter of budget but one of philosophy".
Youth and rejuvenation are the name of the game, with seven neo-pros signed up for next season, including five from Lotto Soudal's development squad. 20-year-old Xandres Veervloesem could be the pick of them, having won the Ronde de l'Isard this year. He'll be joined by Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc podium finisher Maxim Van Gils, 21, and 22-year-olds Harry Sweeny, who won Il Piccolo Lombardia and Filippo Conca, who was fifth at the U23 Giro.
Seasoned leaders Philippe Gilbert, Caleb Ewan, Thomas De Gendt, John Degenkolb and Tim Wellens will be the focal points going forward, meaning the youngsters won't be under any pressure in 2021. Instead, a proper evaluation of Lotto Soudal's 20-21 off-season will come several years down the line.
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