Cycling's transfer merry-go-round is already in full swing at this year's Tour de France with rider agents an almost daily presence at the start villages each morning. Although contracts can not be announced until the start of August, Marc Sergeant, the team boss of Lotto Belisol, is already trawling the market in search of riders.
The Belgian team is already on the lookout for reinforcements for the new season, and with a number of teams having uncertain futures due to sponsorship concerns, Sergeant is well aware that team managers hold the cards when it comes to negotiations in the market.
"The store is full, you can go shopping but at this point we can't afford to reach that high," he told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 8.
"Someone has already asked me if I'd like Gilbert back. If we had the money, the answer would be yes, but maybe he'd come for less. Anyway he has one more year still at BMC."
In reality Lotto has looked to keep their stars rather than compete with the bigger budget teams. Andre Greipel signed a contract extension recently, although Sergeant added that the squad is on the lookout for depth in their roster.
"Up to now we've been trying to keep our best guys. Now we're waiting a little bit and seeing what happens. We don't have the budget of the guys like Sky so we have to be careful," he said.
"Lets say we're after a bit of everything. So here at the Tour we have a good team but you see that with Van den Broeck being out we're now in difficulty and we have to put everything on Andre for the sprints."
"If you have another climber, maybe another rider for the Classics like Flanders, that's what we're looking for."
One rider that may interest Sergeant is Sylvain Chavanel, currently out of contract at the end of the season.
"Right now managers are all over the place. There are a lot of names on the market but a lot of them are already close to agreement. Chavanel, he's free but there are other ones too. But we have some good Belgian riders and that's one of the missions of the team, to bring in young riders and let them grow for the future."
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