With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a long-term suspension of racing, many professional riders whose contracts expire at the end of this year face uncertainty over their futures, and those in cycling's 'second division' are chief among them.
From experienced riders with proven track records at the top level, to younger riders looking to make the next steps in their careers, these are the riders who'll command the most interest when the market starts to pick up again.
- Team: Total Direct Energie
- Age: 36
Terpstra is far and away the most decorated rider on this list but, after two underwhelming seasons, and having turned 36 earlier this month, the former Roubaix and Flanders winner faces an uncertain period. He has no intention of hanging up his wheels but bad luck has cost him since he left QuickStep.
He appeared in good form last year with two podiums in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Le Samyn, before crashing out of Flanders and missing Roubaix. He failed to finish the Tour but bounced back to take second in Paris-Tours, and although this season started modestly the Dutchman must wait until the re-starting of racing to prove to his team and others that he’s still a genuine Classics contender.
- Team: Androni Gioctattoli
- Age: 25
Nicola Bagioli – older brother of Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Andrea Bagioli – may not have won a professional race nor register as a household name but the 25-year-old has the making of a decent little one-day racer. He has a strong finish, can climb – as shown with his KOM from Tirreno-Adriatico a couple of years ago – and he’s been close to a few major wins, with second and fourth in Trofeo Laiguelia.
He has also picked up a few top-fives in Spain, Belgium, and France, so he’s more than capable of handling himself outside of his comfort zone. Last season tailed off and Bagioli only has one race day to his name this season but he’s an interesting prospect for an Italian team looking for a promising finisher or another European squad willing to take a gamble.
- Team: Burgos-BH
- Age: 23
Gibson followed a similar path to Hugh Carthy, first racing for John Herety’s team in the United Kingdom, before relocating to Spain and racing for a Pro Continental outfit. The similarities end there in the sense that Gibson is an out-and-out sprinter but his palmares is impressive, with wins in Quinghai Lake, Tour de l’Avenir, and Normandie to his name.
He signed a two-year deal with Burgos, and 2019 was all about learning, with this season planned as the one in which the rider from the north of England kicked on and truly announced himself on the world scene. Sadly, the pandemic has robbed him of that chance but he remains a rider worth keeping tabs on.
- Team: B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
- Age: 30
Tom-Jelte Slagter can boast a long and successful career but, after two years at Dimension Data, he dropped down to the Pro Continental ranks in France as he looked for a new challenge. He’s still 30 – despite a career that spans two decades – and even though his time at Dimension Data failed to yield a single win, the former Rabobank rider was nevertheless consistent with a string of top-10s between 2018 and 2019.
He never quite kicked on after that win at the Tour Down Under in 2013 but even last autumn he was competing for top honours in races like Quebec. Being on a team as dysfunctional as Dimension Data were in the last two years probably didn’t help but, after signing only a one-year deal at B&B, Slagter is back on the market. He still has the quality to race in the WorldTour and has several years left in the tank. Finding a team shouldn’t be a problem but it may come down to the sort of role the Dutchman is willing to take.
- Team: Total Direct Energie
- Age: 26
It’s a shame we rarely got to see Turgis and Terpstra race together in the spring Classics because they genuinely could have made a strong double act. Turgis has the better sprint but he’s no slouch on the cobbles either, with second in Dwars door Vlaanderen last season and two other wins in his native France. The former Cofidis rider almost won the national championships in 2018 and could legitimately be Total’s star when it comes to the Classics in the coming years.
Another two years with Terpstra could certainly ease that transition and allow the Frenchman to pick up a few more tips from the experienced Dutchman. Also, with French WorldTour teams set to struggle as they aim to balance rosters for WorldTour races and the French national calendar, one could expect to see Total and Turgis flex their muscles and potentially dominate if racing resumes later this year.
- Team: Arkéa-Samsic
- Age: 24
The former British national champion joined Arkéa-Samsic in a mid-season transfer last year and spent the second part of 2019 flipping between Arkéa duties and racing for the national team at the Tour of Britain. His first full season in France has seen him race the Tour de la Provence and make his WorldTour stage racing debut at Paris-Nice, and with the arrival of Nacer Bouhani from Cofidis, the 24-year-old Swift has an experienced focal point in the sprints.
Arkéa are clearly building for the future and made a raft of new signings in for this year that also included Nairo Quintana and another British rider in Daniel McLay. Swift could potentially play a part in their new structure over the coming years but he perhaps needs a few results of his own to remind those outside of his bubble of the class he has on the bike. There would certainly be interest from other Pro Continental teams if Arkéa decide not to renew.
- Team: Androni Giocattoli
- Age: 25
The Colombian spent three full seasons at Katusha before joining Manzana Postobon at the start of 2019. When that team folded mid-season, the 25-year-old headed to Italy and linked up with Gianni Savio as he tried to establish himself for a second time in Europe.
A talented sprinter, he already has six wins to his name this year, albeit with those victories coming against limited opposition, and while he can’t justify the interest of WorldTour teams at present, Restrepo remains a dependable rider at a division below. His WorldTour experience should stand him in good stead if Savio offers him a contract extension at the end of the campaign.
- Team: Circus-Wanty Gobert
- Age: 28
The Belgian made his Grand Tour debut in 2019 and rode into Paris with a highly respectable 21st place. Along the way, he finished inside the top-10 on two occasions as he battled for the early lead in the King of the Mountains competition. This year, with more GC responsibilities on his shoulders, the 28-year-old has won a stage and the GC at Murcia, and finished inside the top 20 at both Besseges and Algarve.
For a team like Circus-Wanty, Meurisse is the perfect fit when it comes to leadership and, if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, there might have been a lot more interest in his services for 2021. As it is, Meurisse is likely to remain at Pro Continental level unless he decides to park his own ambitions and become a domestique at a larger team.
- Team: Rally Cycling
- Age: 25
A member of the Axeon alumni from 2016 that included Eddie Dunbar, Tao Geoghegan Hart, and Adrien Costa, the Rally Cycling sprinter has forged a career for himself that includes several high profile wins on both sides of the Atlantic. Rally appear to be the perfect squad for Joyce, given that they repeatedly have invites from races all over the world but, with the loss of several races in North America, this could be the moment for Joyce to spread his wings, if a European team come calling with an offer. Teammate Robin Carpenter finds himself in a similar position, with his contract also up at the end of the campaign.
- Team: Alpecin-Fenix
- Age: 28
Despite only racing two years at WorldTour level, the Dane has carved out an excellent career that combines his road ambitions with his pedigree on the track. He’s yet to race on the road this year but with the Olympic Games moved to 2021, the 2012 Omnium champion may be holding out for a contract extension with a team that has given him the opportunity and freedom to combine his road and track talents.
If not, there will be several suitors willing to provide a home for the current Madison world champion who is always willing to use his huge engine to help his team leaders on the road.
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