On Sunday evening one high profile agent described the second rest day at the Tour de France as 'D-Day for the transfer market' with a number of agents heading to France to sit down with WorldTour team bosses for a set of short one-on-one meetings.
On the agenda were a list of high-profile riders, all of whom will be out of contract at the end of the season and therefore able to sign for 2018 as of August 1. Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru, Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff, Mikel Landa, and even the contracted Nairo Quintana were among some of the lead names tossed around.
"Since I've been in cycling I've not experienced such an intense rest-day. It's transfer D-Day," one agent told Cyclingnews as he presumably backed his best suit on Sunday evening.
In the end, Cyclingnews can report very few high-profile deals were actually finalised with the market held up by Kittel's decision to wait until after the Tour and Aru's agent still shopping around for the best deal. Those two riders, it seems, determine a number of subsequent moves. For example, if Kittel leaves Quick-Step Floors, it will free up a sprint spot for Bryan Coquard, whose preferred move would be to the Belgian outfit.
Aru is still negotiating with both Astana and UAE – a team seemingly after every rider with a reasonable amount of UCI points – with one manager confirming that as late as last Sunday he was receiving calls from the Italian's agent. If Aru does move to UAE, as most predict, it would likely ensure that Dan Martin remains at Quick-Step. The Irish climber has an offer on the table from another team but is waiting for Patrick Lefevere.
Quintana's position became the biggest story during the rest day. Movistar team boss, Eusebio Unzue, gave a less than flattering interview in Spain which seemed to irritate the Colombian climber. There have been whispers since the Giro d'Italia that Quintana has been looking to end his current deal early but his agent has told Cyclingnews, that while Unzue's interview needs explaining, the rider is willing to honour his existing deal.
"He has a contract for two years. After the Tour we'll speak with Eusebio but normally we'll continue there," Giuseppe Acquadro told Cyclingnews.
"It's normal though that teams are interested in riders like him. There are not that many teams that can afford a rider like him, so it's natural that he's linked to teams like Astana and Sky. That's where the speculation comes from."
While that saga is set to run for the next few weeks Patrick Lefevere is holding out before re-signing a number of his riders at Quick-Step.
"I'm the guy who blocks the market for the moment because everyone is waiting to see if we go on and with which riders," Lefevere told Cyclingnews the evening before the rest day.
"You don't need an economics degree to understand that when I took young riders like Alaphilippe, Gaviria, and Jungels, they were much younger and not as good as they are today. They cost more now."
The Belgian team boss has yet to announce his sponsorship plans for 2018 but the team are expected to carry on. They've already re-signed Julian Alaphilippe and Fernando Gaviria, while Bob Jungels will re-sign soon. A question remains over Kittel's future.
"Marcel prefers not to speak about his future until Paris because he wants to concentrate on the race," Lefevere told Cyclingnews before the German abandoned the race following a crash.
"My experience with the Germans is like this, that they will speak with you first and then others. I spoke to his agent in Düsseldorf and then a couple of days ago with Marcel. He said 'don't worry I'm not going to run away but I prefer not to talk about my future as I have enough stress with the green jersey,' and I respect that."
As for Coquard, the Quick-Step boss said: "I've known him for a long time. I know that his dream for a long time has been to become a Quick-Step rider but of course I can't take him, Gaviria and Kittel. He has to wait and see if one of the sprinters goes."
When contacted by Cyclingnews, Coquard remained on the fence about his plans for next season. His next major goal is the European Championships.
"It's a possibility but I've talked to other teams. I don't know where I'm going yet. Jerome Pineau's team is a possibility but I've not made a decision yet. I have two or three other teams, maybe Quick-Step, but I don't know."
One rider that Lefevere might have already lost is Matteo Trentin. The Italian has been linked to several teams in the last week, including the new Pro Continental team from France.
"The Italian press have also said I'm going to FDJ too," he told Cyclingnews on Sunday. "I guess I'm going to France but honestly in the press I've been linked to about eight different teams. In a couple of weeks everyone will know my future."
Cyclingnews has learned this morning that Trentin has in fact signed with Orica-Scott. However the Australian team would not comment on the matter. They would also not comment on Mikel Nieve signing for them from Team Sky. Cyclingnews understands that it's a done deal, while Magnus Cort and Simon Gerrans are likely to move on. Again, the team would not comment.
Changes at Team Sky
At Team Sky there's a large degree of change. The British team have already seen Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas commit their futures but one agent has told Cyclingnews that Dave Brailsford has resigned himself to losing Mikel Landa to Movistar. The agent told said, 'I spoke to Brailsford and he told me Landa was leaving'.
Michal Kwiatkowski, however, will re-sign after a hugely impressive season. Elia Viviani is on his way to UAE, while Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez, Beñat Intxausti, and Sebastian Henao are all looking to extend by between one and two years. Team Sky are also looking to youth and have signed Pavel Sivakov, who won the Baby Giro, and Egan Bernal. They have been linked to Jonathan Castroviejo for some time and although the move was reported in June, the rider's agent told Cyclingnews that while a move was possible, nothing had been signed just yet.
So, with a number of the highest profile riders either already off the market or pausing until after the Tour, agents and teams have been moving domestiques.
Team BMC are in a unique position. They are only able to guarantee one-year deals and that is reportedly putting off some of their potential targets. Greg Van Avermaet, Richie Porte, Tejay van Garderen and Nicolas Roche are already set for next year but Daniel Oss is moving to Bora-Hansgrohe, while Alessandro De Marchi is leaving, with UAE heavily linked to the Italian. Jurgen Roelandts is set to move across from Lotto Soudal. Amael Moinard is also rumoured to be leaving, with Jerome Pineau confirming that his new team would be interested in the rider's services.
"We had some interest in Pierre Rolland but he's at Cannondale. Moinard is interesting because he has a lot of experience and he was there when Cadel Evans won the Tour. We're interested in him but nothing is signed. It's not just a question of big names. It's about quality too."
As for Kristoff and Contador, their futures remain undecided. The Norwegian remains linked to several teams, including Astana, while Contador has not yet signed his contract extension with Trek-Segafredo for another year. We understand that the Spaniard isn't talking to other teams and is just focussing on racing for the moment.
Cannondale, with a new major sponsor on the way, have begun negotiating with their riders. Rigoberto Uran, Pierre Rolland and Simon Clarke are all expected to stay, although the future of Davide Formolo is a little more unclear with several teams, including Bora, interested after his Giro d'Italia performance. The American outfit have, however, signed hot prospect Neilson Powless, while there's a lot of interest in Chris Lawless from Great Britain. Dylan Van Baarle is also expect to agree a new deal.
At Dimension Data, Nathan Haas is set to leave along with Omar Fraile. The latter goes to Astana. The team were interested, albeit briefly, in signing Dan Martin but that deal looks dead. They remain linked to Louis Meintjes, who will need to decide between staying at UAE or heading back to Dimension Data or moving to Bahrain Merida.
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