As the new season quickly approaches, Cyclingnews is taking a look at the ins and outs of the 2018-2019 transfer window and analysing how the different teams have equipped themselves for the forthcoming season.
In the first instalment, we looked at AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, Bahrain-Merida, CCC Team and Bora-Hansgrohe. In the second, we examine the prospects of Dimension Data, EF Education First, Groupama-FDJ and Katusha-Alpecin.
Team: Dimension Data
Overview: Micheal Valgren and Roman Kreuziger add dynamism and steel. Giacomo Nizzolo and Enrico Gasparotto form a reliable second line but can Mark Cavendish return to anywhere near his best?
In: Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing), Michael Valgren (Astana), Roman Kreuziger (Mitchelton-Scott), Stefan De Bod (neo-pro), Rasmus Tilller (Team Joker), Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto Soudal), Enrico Gasparotto (Bahrain-Merida), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Gino Mader (neo-pro).
Out: Serge Pauwels (CCC Team), Merhawi Kudus (Astana), Natnael Berhane (Cofidis) Igor Anton (retired), Lachlan Morton (EF Education First), Scott Thwaites, Mekseb Debesay, Johann Van Zyl, and Nic Dougal.
Extended: Ben O'Connor, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Ben King, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Mark Renshaw and Mark Cavendish.
Analysis: There’s no doubt that Dimension Data have strengthened their line-up with the acquisition of Gasparotto, Kreuziger and Valgren. The Dane is easily the most exciting prospect to join the team in recent years, while Kreuziger will have more opportunities to race for himself in stage races, with the aim of picking up valuable WorldTour points in an area the team have been lacking. Gasparotto might be nearing the end of his career but his experience will be relied upon whenever he lines up at a race. As one of the team's directors told us after the signing was announced, the Italian never needs to be told when to move up or pay attention; he’s always in the right position.
Elsewhere, the team have signed Wyss and Bak in order to solidify the squad's spine, while Nizzolo will be charged with supporting Cavendish and leading the line in several races, such as the Giro d'Italia. The re-signing of the Manx Missile represents something of a gamble, given the last two seasons, but, overall, the team have recruited well. The criticism they faced this year came down to the fact that if their three leaders – Cavendish, Cummings and Boasson Hagen - failed to deliver then there was nowhere else to turn. Not only have they signed more depth, they’ve added quality into the mix, too. Of the riders who have left, only Pauwels will be genuinely missed. The contract extension for O'Connor provides an exciting prospect for the future but the majority of the stage race responsibilities lie with Louis Meintjes.
Overview: Promising riders signed and plenty of second chances but overall the team lack a go-to winner.
In: Alberto Bettiol (BMC Racing), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), James Whelan (neo-pro), Julius van den Bergh (neo-pro), Moreno Hofland (Lotto Soudal), Tanel Kangert (Astana), Luis Villalobos (as of June 2019 - neo), Jonathan Caicedo (Medellin), Sean Bennett (Hagens Berman Axeon), Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data), Sergio Higuita (Manzana Postobon), and Jonathan Klever Caicedo (Medellin).
Out: Pierre Rolland (Vital Concept), Will Clarke (Trek-Segafredo), Daniel Moreno, Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Cycling Academy), Brendan Canty, Kim Magnusson, Julian Cardona (Androni).
Extended: Matti Breschel, Sebastian Langeveld, Sep Vanmarcke, Hugh Carthy, Taylor Phinney, Joe Dombrowski, Mitch Docker
Analysis: When you don't have the budget of Team Sky, or even the next level of WorldTour teams, you need to be creative in the transfer market. That effectively means taking punts on riders that either aren't on the radar of other teams, haven't fully developed yet or are simply deemed surplus to requirements at other squads. With EF Education First, virtually every rider they've signed for 2019 fits into one of those three categories, and once again it's hard to see where the wins are going to come from. This is a squad that appears to want to dip their toes into every pool, whether that's stage racing, sprinting or the Classics but without truly committing investment to one area.
Of their new recruits, Whelan looks like a promising prospect, and the same can be said of Bennett – who has impressed on both sides of the Atlantic - Caicedo, and Villalobos. This team clearly has an eye for talent, but questions remain as to whether they have a consistent degree in developing it.
They've also given Hofland the chance to resurrect his career, Kangert an opportunity before his powers fade, and the likeable Bettiol a place on their roster after a quiet year at BMC Racing. The re-signing of Morton is slightly puzzling, although he could be a perfect fit for their desire to tackle gravel races in 2019.
The biggest question, however, revolves around Van Garderen. The American is now 30 and sits at a major crossroads in his career. Negotiations with the team took place in May – during the Tour of California – so the team were certainly keen on signing the American. Their plan is to give the former BMC rider tangible, realistic goals, rather than creating hype and pressure over scenarios that may not happen. So, if there's talk of going for GC at the Tour by the time July comes around, then we already know the plan isn't working. This could be the move that reignites Van Garderen, who will be racing alongside riders he came through the ranks with as a junior.
Overview: Three in, three out, with Kung the most significant addition.
In: Stefan Kung, Killian Frankiny, Miles Scotson (BMC Racing)
Out: Arthur Vichot (Vital Concept), Jeremy Roy (Retired), David Cimolai (Israel Cycling Academy).
Extended: Antoine Duchesne, Arnaud Démare, David Gaudu, Olivier Le Gac, Marc Sarreau, Mathieu Ladagnous, Jacopo Guarnieri, Anthony Roux, Thibaut Pinot, Rudy Molard, William Bonnet, Sebastian Reichenbach, Steve Morabito
Analysis: This was one of the quietest transfer windows the French team have had since their formation in 1997. Three riders joined – all from the same team – while two longstanding servants in Roy and Vichot, along with Cimolai, departed. Kung, who agreed to join before the Tour this year, represents the most important addition, and will add vital horsepower to the squad, while Scotson is the first Australian to sign with Madiot’s men since Wesley Sulzberger, almost a decade ago. Frankiny is a decent climber, who appeared to improve as the Giro d'Italia wore on this year. Roy and Vichot were two mainstays of this team but the squad's management retained several key riders to support Demare and Pinot, both of whom were given contract extensions.
Overview: Everything rests on Kittel but is there a strategy elsewhere?
In: Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal), Harry Tanfield (neo-pro), Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo), Ruben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis)
Out: Marco Matthis (Cofidis), Tony Martin (LottoNL-Jumbo), Maurits Lammertink (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij)
Extended: Willie Smit, Viacheslav Kuznetsov, Jenthe Biermans, Alex Dowsett, Marco Haller, Reto Hollenstein, Nils Politt, Mads Wurtz Schmidt, Rick Zabel.
Analysis: Given the poor year they've had, Katusha were relatively quiet in the transfer market. Debusschere looks like an interesting prospect for the Classics, while Battaglin woke up during a contract year in order to earn a move from LottoNL. Guerreiro has never raced a Grand Tour but will add to the limited pool of climbers on the team, while Navarro brings experience to work alongside Boswell in protecting Zakarin.
However, the team's overall success will rest on Kittel and whether the German can find his mojo after a bleak 2018. They've extended contracts with several of his lead-out train, although they're arguably missing one more body, but the recruitment of Zabel senior could be influential. This team, however, are still struggling to replace Joaquim Rodriguez – a consistent presence through the Classics and Grand Tours, and who could be relied upon for points as well as wins. For all of Zakarin's hype, he remains fragile and unpredictable. At least Spilak is in a contract year, which means he'll turn it on for the Tour de Suisse at the very least.