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Transfer Mechanics: Analysing teams 2021 – part 3

UAE Team Emirates’ Jan Polanc guides team leader Tadej Pogacar (in all white) towards an eventual victory on stage 15 of the 2020 Tour de France, but it was race leader Primoz Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma squad that took control for much of the stage
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The 2021 road season is just around the corner, albeit with a bit of uncertainty on which events will proceed as scheduled in the first months due to lingering concerns for the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

What is becoming more certain are full WorldTour rosters for the new season, and Cyclingnews continues to inspect the movement in the transfer market.

In the first part of our analysis, we looked at how AG2R, Astana, Bahrain, Bora, Cofidis, and Deceuninck-QuickStep played the market. The second installment surveyed EF Education-Nippo, GreenEdge, Groupama-FDJ, Intermarché-Wanty, Israel Start-Up Nation and Lotto Soudal.

This third segment spotlights the comings and goings with seven teams - introduction of new quality for Movistar, massive turnovers with new look at Qhubeka-Assos, Romain Bardet takes a lead at Team DSM, the post-Froome era at Ineos Grenadiers includes big names, youth movement at Team Jumbo-Visma, a focus on stability at Trek-Segafredo, and veteran duo of Matteo Trentin and Rafal Majka arrive at UAE Team Emirates.

Movistar Team

MERIBEL FRANCE SEPTEMBER 16 Arrival Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno of Colombia and Astana Pro Team Celebration during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 17 a 170km stage from Grenoble to Mribel Col de la Loze 2304m TDF2020 LeTour on September 16 2020 in Mribel France Photo by Benoit Tessier PoolGetty Images

Miguel Angel Lopez will be stage race leader for Movistar Team in new year (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Overview: Lopez and Cortina re-inject quality into a team decimated in last year's transfer window

In: Ivan García Cortina (Bahrain McLaren), Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Abner Gonzalez (neo-pro), Gonzalo Serrano (Caja Rural), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)

Out: Jurgen Roelandts (retires), Eduardo Sepulveda (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec)

Extended:  Juan Diego Alba, Jorge Arcas, Héctor Carretero, Dario Cataldo, Gabriel Cullaigh, Iñigo Elosegui, Imanol Erviti, Juri Hollmann, Johan Jacobs, Matteo Jorgenson, Luís Mas, Enric Mas, Mathias Norsgaard, Nelson Oliveira, Antonio Pedrero, José Joaquín Rojas, Einer Rubio, Sergio Samitier, Marc Soler, Alejandro Valverde, Carlos Verona and Davide Villella, Albert Torres, Sebastian Mora

Analysis: After last year’s transfer window stripped the team of Richard Carapaz, Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Andrey Amador, Movistar have gone some way to strengthening again for 2021.

They have landed a new stage race leader in Miguel Angel Lopez. The Colombian has Grand Tour podiums to his name and looked set to add to them at this year’s Tour de France but for a disastrous final time trial. He’ll take some of the pressure off the shoulders of Enric Mas, who found himself as the sole Grand Tour hope in 2020, but it’ll be interesting to see how they divide their objectives. Curiously, Lopez has only been given a one-year deal, while Mas was given three when he signed and was hailed as the future of the team. 

Muhlberger goes some way to reinfecting some quality into the climbing department but Cortina is the other main source of excitement. 

A rising Spanish talent who can compete in the Classics and sprint at the end of arduous races, the 25-year-old is a marquee acquisition for the Spanish squad. In a year where the roster has been consolidated with a string of extensions, the signings of Lopez and Cortina might not return Movistar to their former glories immediately, but they should ensure their miserable 2020 campaign does not come to pass again. 

Qhubeka-Assos

UAE Team Emirates’ Fabio Aru on the attack on stage 6 of the 2020 Tour de France

Grand Tour winner Fabio Aru looks to recapture form with Qhubeka-Assos (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Overview: A squad put together at the 11th hour

In: Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling), Dimitri Claeys (Cofidis), Kilian Frankiny (Groupama-FDJ), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Jumbo-Visma), Robert Power (Sunweb), Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal), Mauro Schmid (Leopard Pro Cycling), Matteo Pelucchi (Bardiani-CSF), Lasse Norman Hansen (Alpecin-Fenix), Sergio Henao (UAE Team Emirates), Harry Tanfield (AG2R La Mondiale), Emil Vinjebo (Riwal Securitas), Connor Brown (neo-pro), Sean Bennett (EF Pro Cycling), Lukasz Wisniowski (CCC Team)

Out: Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Ben O'Connor (AG2R), Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X), Michael Valgren (EF Pro Cycling), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek-Segafredo), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Direct Energie), Ben King (Rally Cycling), Roman Kreuziger (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Louis Meintjes (Circus-Wanty Gobert), Gino Mader (Bahrain Victorious), Enrico Gasparotto (retires)

Extended: Giacomo Nizzolo

Analysis: 2021 sees a whirlwind of change for the team who were saved at the 11th hour. By that point, a number of key riders had left the building, and while there were plenty of riders on the market, top-quality choices were limited. As such, Doug Ryder’s team have ended up with a real mixed bag of a roster. There are some names who you feel can stand out, but it’s hard to decipher much of a sense of direction. 

Bjarne Riis has left and Ryder is back in full control with the Qhubeka charity back in the team name, but it’s certainly not a pivot back to the African focus that waned in the years after Mark Cavendish’s signing. Grand Tour leader Louis Meintjes has left and Ryan Gibbons was snapped up by UAE, while Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier’s exit leaves the team with just two African riders. 

In a way, there’s a like-for-like replacement for Meintjes in Fabio Aru, another former Grand Tour star whose form has deserted him in the past few years. The former Vuelta winner was no longer the most expensive outlay, and if they can go some way to resurrecting his career then it will be a success, but he’s not someone they can reasonably bank on for stage race results. 

In the Classics, the team have taken a real hit, losing Edvald Boasson Hagen, who has been a key and consistent figure for the team, and Michael Valgren, who’s capable of winning big races. Crucially, they did manage to hold onto sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo, who had a great season and whose sprint victories will be key in 2021. In terms of the new faces, Simon Clarke adds quality and leadership, and could prove an important figure, while the likes of Rob Power and Kilian Frankiny have potential that’s still to be unlocked. However, you can’t escape the feeling of a team cobbled together late on, which is what it was. 

Team DSM

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) at the 2020 Tour de France

Frenchman Romain Bardet has been on the podium twice at the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Overview: Bardet ushers new dawn as more big names head for the exit

In: Thymen Arensman (neo-pro, as of August 2020), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Marco Brenner (neo-pro), Romain Combaud (Nippo Delko), Andreas Leknessund (Uno-X), Niklas Märkl (neo-pro), Kevin Vermaercke (neo-pro), Henri Vandenabeele (neo-pro from 2022)

Out: Michael Matthews (Mitchelton-Scott), Sam Oomen (Jumbo-Visma), Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), Rob Power (Qhubeka-Assos)

Extended: Nikias Arndt, Florian Stork, Cees Bol, Alberto Dainese, Nils Eekhoff, Tiesj Benoot

Analysis: If you were to ignore the team’s overall performance in 2020, things would appear concerning. In Matthews, Oomen, and Kelderman, they’re losing three of their biggest names, continuing an exodus that has seen the likes of Tom Dumoulin, Lennard Kamna, and Warren Barguil leave in recent years. However, when you take into account the way the younger and lesser known riders came together to deliver display after display of collective strength, you stop worrying. 

The team had already begun investing resources in youth, and that continues apace this year, with the signing of the highly-rated Thymen Arensman and 18-year-old Marco Brenner, among three other neo-pros. The marquee arrival, however, is an established rider in the form of Romain Bardet, twice a podium finisher at the Tour de France.

Although Jai Hindley has taken a major step forward, the losses of Dumoulin and now Kelderman and Oomen have ripped out the team’s stage racing core, hence the need to go after someone of Bardet’s calibre. The Frenchman has lost his way as a Grand Tour rider in the past couple of years but has offered regular glimpses of his class. He’ll find an environment a world away from the comfortable one that revolved around him at AG2R, and Team DSM will find a very different rider and leader to the likes of Dumoulin and Kelderman. 

At first it seemed a questionable fit, but both share similar drive and ways of working. Both need new impetus and so they might be just what the other needs.

Ineos Grenadiers

CANTAL FRANCE SEPTEMBER 11 Podium Daniel Felipe Martinez Poveda of Colombia and Team EF Pro Cycling Celebration Mask Covid safety measures Medal Flowers during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 13 a 1915km stage from ChtelGuyon to Pas de PeyrolLe Puy Mary Cantal 1589m TDF2020 LeTour on September 11 2020 in Cantal France Photo by AnneChristine Poujoulat PoolGetty Images

Colombian Dani Martinez won stage 13 of the 2020 Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Overview: Chris Froome is gone but Brailsford's team flex their financial muscle with five bumper signings.

In: Laurens De Plus (Jumbo-Visma), Tom Pidcock (neo-pro), Daniel Martínez (EF Pro Cycling), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)

Out: Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation), Ian Stannard (retires), Chris Lawless (Total Direct Energie), Christian Knees (retires)

Extended: Luke Rowe, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Gianni Moscon, Michal Kwiatkowski

Analysis: The Froome era is over. After a decade of service, the British team must make their way without the figure who landed them seven of their 11 Grand Tour titles. With question marks remaining over the 35-year-old’s ability to return to his best, and with the likes of Bernal, Thomas, Carapaz, Geoghegan Hart, and Sivakov all in place, the sense is that they can do just fine without him. When you add in new signings Adam Yates, Laurens De Plus, Richie Porte, and Dani Martínez, they’re arguably better stocked than ever before in the Grand Tour department. 

It’ll be interesting to see how all those riders are used in 2021, and what the strategy behind the recruitment was. Dave Brailsford has spoken about a new post-Froome identity, apparently inspired by the open, attacking, and expansive racing seen at the Tour de France and especially at the Giro d'Italia after the loss of overall leaders Bernal and Thomas. 

Porte has vowed to return to domestique duties but the others could all help lead the line in major races. If the new style doesn’t materialise, it’s a line-up that could easily re-establish the Grand Tour control they lost to Jumbo-Visma this year.

When it comes to exciting racing, however, the key signing is Pidcock, a rider who fits the new wave of young all-rounders. He’s already a star, but could become the household British name of the next decade and Ineos were understandably determined to secure his signature, which was a long time in the making.  

Jumbo-Visma

Sam Oomen showed his potential by winning the best young rider jersey at the 2019 Tirreno-Adriatico

Newcomer Sam Oomen has potential with Jumbo-Visma (Image credit: Getty Images)

Overview: A quiet window sees the team invest in youth.

In: Edoardo Affini (Mitchelton-Scott), David Dekker (SEG Racing Academy), Gijs Leemreize (Jubmo-Visma Development), Sam Oomen (Sunweb), Nathan van Hooydonck (CCC Team), Olav Kooij (neo-pro)

Out: Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Mitchelton-Scott), Laurens De Plus (Ineos Grenadiers), Tom Leezer (retires), Taco van der Hoorn (Beat Cycling Club), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Qhubeka-Assos)

Extended: Tony Martin, Tom Leezer, Jonas Vingegaard, Pascal Eenkhoorn, Timo Roosen, Lennard Hofstede, Christoph Pfingsten, Paul Martens (until July 2021), Maarten Wynants (until May 2021)

Analysis: A quiet transfer window for the Dutch team, who didn’t have a great deal of work to do. With Primož Roglič firing on all cylinders, Tom Dumoulin getting back towards his best, and with key domestiques Sepp Kuss and George Bennett already under contract, the top-line Grand Tour unit is in good health. With Wout Van Aert they’ll compete for every major Classic and in Dylan Groenewegen they have a top-level sprinter, even if he’ll miss a portion of the season through suspension.

The main change is something of a straight swap in the form of Oomen for De Plus. Both have shone as domestiques and have the ability to lead in the future, but have been held back by injuries. If Oomen can get back up and running Jumbo-Visma may have a luxury domestique and soon another Grand Tour contender. Elsewhere, the team have invested in youth, with sprinters Olav Kooij and David Dekker both highly-rated, as is climber Gijs Leemreize.

Trek-Segafredo

LA PLANCHE FRANCE SEPTEMBER 19 Richie Porte of Australia and Team Trek Segafredo during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 20 a 362km Individual Time Trial stage from Lure to La Planche Des Belles Filles 1035m ITT TDF2020 LeTour on September 19 2020 in La Planche France Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images

Richie Porte moves to Team Ineos Grenadiers (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Overview: No big changes to the make-up of the team as key extensions the priority

In: Alessandro Fancellu (Kometa Xstra), Matthias Skjelmose (neo-pro), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (NTT), Jakob Egholm (neo-pro)

Out: Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers), Pieter Weening (retires)

Extended: Jasper Stuyven, Bauke Mollema, Mads Pedersen, Toms Skujins, Jacopo Mosca, Matteo Moschetti, Gianluca Brambilla, Koen de Kort

Analysis: The pandemic left the American-Italian team with little room for manoeuvre in the transfer market, and the priority turned out to be consolidation as Stuyven, Pedersen, and Mollema waited long enough for contract extensions. The former two are crucial to a Classics unit that looked lost in the post-Cancellara years but has now developed into something really exciting.

Mollema, meanwhile, is a steady pair of hands when it comes to stage racing and also one-day racing. The departure of Porte, however, does leave a hole. The Australian is 36 next month and wants to go back to being a domestique in 2021, but he was still their best Grand Tour rider of 2020 after placing third at the Tour de France. 

With Vincenzo Nibali some way off the pace of what he termed a ‘new generation’, the team haven’t strengthened in that area but will instead pin their hopes on Giulio Ciccone emerging as a leader

UAE Team Emirates

UAE Tour 2020 2nd Edition 5th stage Al Ain Jebel Hafeet 162 km 27022020 Rafal Majka POL Bora Hansgrohe photo Dario BelingheriBettiniPhoto2020

The addition of Rafal Majka, a former Grand Tour podium finisher, is an asset for UAE Team Emirates (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Overview: Trentin and Majka arrive but still the focus is on youth rather than spending.

In: Ryan Gibbons (NTT), Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Matteo Trentin (CCC Team), Juan Ayuso (neo-pro)

Out: Tom Bohli (Cofidis), Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), Edward Ravasi (Eolo-Kometa), Sergio Henao (Qhubeka-Assos), Fabio Aru (Qhubeka-Assos)

Extended: Tadej Pogačar, Diego Ulissi, Alexandr Riabushenko, Oliveiro Troia, Vegard Stake Laengen, Sebastian Molano

Analysis: When you’ve got someone like Tadej Pogačar, who else do you need? Well, even a one-man wonder might need support when you consider he’ll be a very different prospect in the eyes of his competitors now he’s a Tour de France champion. Rafal Majka is a former Grand Tour podium finisher who could make a real asset as a domestique, but building a team around Pogačar will take more than the Pole.

The well-funded team have the pockets to delve more deeply into the transfer market but have seemingly opted to try and bring through the host of young riders they’ve signed in the last couple of years. Brandon McNulty, who had a good Giro, is the pick of the existing crop, while the snapping up of 17-year-old Spanish talent Juan Ayuso, who’ll only ride for the team from 2022, is another building block for the future.

In the here and now, Trentin adds true class and consistency, while Gibbons is another talented sprinter-puncheur. Both cover the loss of Jasper Philippsen. The most important piece of business, though, was arguably the new lucrative contract extension for Pogačar. He was already on board through to 2022 but will now stay until 2024.