Shuffling The Pack

By The Way - Weekly Columns


By @TimBonvilleGinn Every time a new season starts, cycling fans must get their heads around the fact that several riders have swapped teams. To add to the confusion, new sponsors and colours are thrown into the mix too. I realise, if you don’t watch/know things about pro cycling, this article is almost certainly not for you, if you keep reading, well I hope you are intrigued and surprised by some odd shifts in the cycling peloton.

This year we have seen a bigger change than normal. At least, it seems that way. The world tour has taken a rather ‘zesty’ look, you might say that the kit designers have got a new pack of highlighters for Christmas, either way, we have some bright kits. The transfers, which this article is about, are very interesting. I’ll be sticking with the world tour though.

I’ll start with the obvious, AG2R La Mondiale need more riders around superstar, Romain Bardet, but, they seem to have failed in signing riders to help with that. They have brought in just four riders, the best known being former Lotto Soudal man, Tony Gallopin. Another interesting signing is Swiss national champion, Sylvain Dillier from BMC. I’m surprised BMC let him go, as he was finally starting to flourish at the American/Swiss team. AG2R have gained a powerful rider there. The other two riders they have brought in are cyclo-cross youngster, Clement Venturini from Cofidis. Good move for the future. Along with young Frenchman, Benoit Cosnefroy.

The French outfit have lost some top riders though. Sondre Holst Enger (Israel Cycling Academy), Hugo Houle (Astana) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida). They’ve lost pace in Enger, classics potential with Houle and climbing support with Pozzovivo, Nibali getting a gain there.

Astana now, one of very few teams to hardly change kit design. But, they have lost the star GC man, Fabio Aru has gone for money, so Astana are left with just Fuglsang. So, they went buying, they brought in Magnus Cort Nielsen, the Dane had plenty of chances at Orica Scott, maybe he wants a lot more, he will get it here. Omar Fraile, yep, he’s left the loving arms of Dimension Data, maybe he’ll do a Meintjes and go back a couple years later. (Ooh spoilers). It is an odd move but Astana’s style suits the Spaniard, so we’ll see.

Jan Hirt, well, its hardly surprising after that brilliant performance at the Giro. It was only a matter of time before the talented Slovenian climber went to the world tour. I really think we will see the best of him this year. CCC will be sad to see him go, but Astana have got a good buy there. Hugo Houle, as I said in the AG2R para, they have lost a talented rider on the cobbles, not only that, but he can time trial well too. Also, a good addition to a possible lead-out train for Cort Nielsen. The French speaking Canadian will hope that he gets plenty races and can kick start his career. Finally, former Cannondale Drapac man, Davide Villella. His performance at La Vuelta was excellent, taking the mountains jersey and somehow keeping Chris Froome away from a clean sweep at the race. Astana, once again, buying smart instead of big! The only out for them is the now retired, Paolo Tiralongo.

You might’ve realised I’m doing this in alphabetical order… Bahrain Merida now, they've been about as busy as the first two teams. Now, Ion (or Jon which ever you prefer) Izagirre moved to Bahrain Merida because he wanted more opportunities at being the leader in big races. He was going to be the main man for the Tour de France, but he crashed out on that treacherous TT round Dusseldorf. Anyway, his brother, Gorka, had yet another mediocre season. It started rather well with a good performance early on at the Tour Down Under. But he crashed at that race, leaving it wide open for Richie Porte to take. Gorka will be hoping that he can start a fresh at Bahrain Merida, plus, he’s back with his brother. One odd signing this season has to be Bahrain Merida’s signing of Slovenian TT specialist, Kristijan Koren from Cannondale Drapac. Maybe they’re looking for more power on the flat? Unsure about that one. Strong rider though. Matej Mohoric, another weird one. We have known about this mover for some time, we heard about the move a couple of days before he won his stage at La Vuelta. UAE Team Emirates have lost a talent, no doubts there, but will he fit into the plan of Nibali et al? We’ll see, but he is similar to Koren. Hermann Pernsteiner, now this has come out of left field. He’s 27, from Switzerland and has just one pro victory. His team was Amplatz-BMC. He’s consistently got 6th or 4th place at races like the Tour of Austria and Tour of Azerbaijan. But, where does he fit in the plan? He must just be a worker. Anyway, he’s contracted till 2019 at the team, could he be a late bloomer? Finally, for Bahrain Merida, Domenico Pozzovivo. A great climber, when on form, whilst he isn’t too tall in stature, he’s definitely long in the tooth. Almost certainly a super domestique for Nibali. I hope to see him do well at the Middle Eastern team. They only let two riders go, both climber, which is surprising, but they’ve bought two climbers as well. Tsgabu Grmay (Trek-Segafredo) and Javier Moreno (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) both leave.

BMC now, well, they have looked at where they would perhaps want more depth and clearly thought they should buy for the cobbles and Ardennes classics. The first man showed great promise last year at Cannondale on the cobbles, climbs and sprints. Albert Bettiol could develop into the complete rider, if trained correctly. Cannondale have lost a future star in my opinion. The 2nd rider from Cannondale Drapac was Patrick Bevin, a great puncher, much like Bettiol, he will bring something extra to the Ardennes races, that is for sure. He performed pretty well at the Giro too. Simon Gerrans, yes, the face of Orica has left the Aussie team. Gerro has been a bit lacklustre in these past two seasons, so moving to BMC could possibly see his career rebooted as a worker, or maybe he can restore his former glory. Jürgen Roelandts, this is surely a signing asked for by Greg van Avermaet. A definite right-hand man for the man from Flanders. Excellent signing to fill a large hole left by the departure of Daniel Oss. Will this be his year to finally get Milan San Remo, a race he’s been so close to getting numerous times? Or will he solely stay at GVA’s side? Nathan van Hooydunck, this young lad was always going to move to BMC from the now defuncted BMC Development team. He has a famous name to live with, but he’s a promising talent that will be great help for GVA when the cobbles come around. BMC have sold more than the other teams so far. Silvan Dillier (Ag2r La Mondiale), Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy), Amaël Moinard (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Manuel Senni (Bardiani-CSF) leave to other teams and Manuel Quinziato starts his retirement.

Up next, Bora Hansgrohe, they have been relatively quiet in comparison to the teams we’ve already looked at. Selling no-one and only bringing four in. But they’re four very talented riders. Davide Formolo. Some extra climbing power, which was a bit low on the ground for Bora last season, focusing so much on Majka. This year, they can look at a top 10 in two grand tours by two different riders. Formolo has a huge future ahead of him and I think Bora is probably a good place to kick that future off in style. Felix Großschartner, easier said than spelt. The young Austrian talent is another star that has left CCC. But now we can appreciate his talents without going blind because of the vile bright orange and blue of his old team. Good climber and talent on the TT bike, Bora have a great support rider for Majka and/or Formolo. Peter Kennaugh, yes, the Manxman has left the clutches of Team Sky to open his horizon. Something, I feel, Geraint Thomas may follow next year. Great to see Pete getting out there, his career at Sky, like most there aside from Froome and Poels, was being put on the back burner so they can support the interests of Froome. Well, Kennaugh has evidently had enough, he moves to Bora where he can help Majka/Formolo and also help with Sagan in classics. Good luck to him. And finally, for Bora, Daniel Oss. Former lieutenant to Van Avermaet, he has switch allegiances to the arch rival, Peter Sagan. To be honest, they know each other from when they both were at Liquigas, so they should be perfect in the classics. They both speak the same language. (Italian, if you were wondering, Sagan lived in Italy for a long time.) They’ll be dangerous in the spring.

EF Education First-Drapac now, apparently that’s the name, I’m still not 100%. This team have left the door wide open for riders to leave, of course, they thought the team wouldn’t be around this year, but luckily enough, they managed to get three riders to sign for them. All sprinters. Logan Owen, young American sprinter signed from Axeon Hagens Berman. He has a good future, which I know I’ve said about a few riders, but he does. I expect good things from this lad. We know a lot about the next two riders, more about the first than the second. Dan McLay, the handlebar moustache has left France and joins the American team for this season, now we know he has great talent, hopefully he can be consistent and stay away from injury. The final signing for EF is former UAE man, Sacha Modolo. I’m quite surprised at this, but the team has always kept its Italian skeleton from the old days and that team Liquigas Cannondale. Modolo was very ill just as he got to peak fitness and tried to ride it out at the Giro and it didn’t work at all. Roberto Ferrari was the main man in the end. Maybe he can improve here. Now just prepare for the list of great riders who have left the team, Albert Bettiol (BMC Racing), Patrick Bevin (BMC Racing) Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), Kristijan Koren (Bahrain-Merida), Ryan Mullen (Trek-Segafredo), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Dylan Van Baarle (Team Sky), Wouter Wippert (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) and Davide Villella (Astana). Wow, so many stars of the team gone. I’m pleased they managed to keep hold of Rigoberto Uran.