The 2020 season has been a season like no other, with the global pandemic meaning that races were either cancelled or moved in what was a chaotic time for everyone. In this truncated season, there were a number of riders who’d made big moves at the beginning of the year and struggled to show their worth.
Others performed superbly in their first seasons at new teams, with Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT), and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) all stand-outs after switching teams for 2020.
Adjusting to a new set-up and new objectives can be a difficult transition, and here we look back at some riders who weren’t quite able to deliver on the expectations set out for them at the season’s start.
Elia Viviani (Cofidis)
Former European, Italian and Olympic champion, Elia Viviani joined Cofidis in what was a very surprising move from Deceuninck – Quick-Step as a big name replacement for Nacer Bouhanni who had joined Arkéa-Samsic.
Cofidis went all in for Viviani, signing multiple riders for his lead-out as well, with Fabio Sabatini coming across with Viviani from Deceuninck along with Simone Consonni from UAE Team Emirates.
But the train never really clicked and that immediately showed in their first race where Viviani and Consonni came second and third in the Tour Down Under criterium behind Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal).
The closest the Italian got to a win was with two second places, one at the Volta ao Algarve and another in the Route d’Occitanie.
Cofidis have spent big on making the lead-out more solid for 2021, but it looks like they need more practise rather than more new signings.
Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo)
You might not think Vincenzo Nibali was too bad this season, but the closest he got to victory was a third place in the Drôme Classic back in March, before the first lockdown.
The Italian’s aim was to build towards the Giro d’Italia, his main goal for the season, so it was unsurprising to see him disappear out of the back of the group early on mountain stages in races like the Volta ao Algarve or Tirreno-Adriatico.
Once the Giro arrived, Nibali looked like he might be in amazing form, putting in some solid performances in the first week which also saw both Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), the two main favourites, drop out of the race.
The major mountains then arrived and Nibali started to fall away as riders like eventual shock winner Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), Wilco Kelderman and Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) went up the road.
Nibali has admitted that he thinks there is a changing of the guard in Grand Tours now and younger riders will begin to dominate the three-week races, despite his team-mate, Richie Porte, who is a year younger than the Italian, taking third at the Tour de France and a 29-year-old Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) winning the Vuelta a España.
Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling)
Another rider who set his sights at the Giro d’Italia, but for different reasons, was Victor Campenaerts, whose first year at NTT Pro Cycling was not the best.
The World Hour Record holder’s main aims were the Belgian, World and European Championship time trials and all three time trials at the Giro. He won none.
To be fair to the Belgian he lost out to the world’s best with Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) taking the Belgian title, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) winning the Europeans, and Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) dominating the Worlds and the Giro time trials.
It did look like it may be starting to come together just in time for the end of the season as he got two second places in the final week of the Giro, so there may be hope yet, especially as it looks like NTT will have a new sponsor for 2021.
Matteo Trentin (CCC Team)
The 2020 season was a lot of close-but-no-cigar moments for the Italian, Matteo Trentin. He made a big move to CCC Team from Mitchelton-Scott at the start of the year, but it wasn’t one that worked.
The idea was that he can be used as another rider in the Classics as a co-leader with Greg Van Avermaet, but unfortunately, when the Classics eventually came Van Avermaet was injured and Trentin just didn’t have the legs, taking a best result of third in Ghent-Wevelgem.
He did manage some solid performances in the Tour de France, where he targeted points at the intermediate sprint, which saw him take third behind Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
With the team folding/merging into Circus-Wanty Gobert next season, Trentin has moved to join UAE Team Emirates where he’ll hope for better fortunes in his first year.
Nils Politt (Israel Start-Up Nation)
This is almost a half-signing, as Katusha-Alpecin, Nils Politt’s old team, merged with Israel Start-Up Nation and took a few riders on including the German
Unfortunately, Politt did not merge his form of 2019 into the 2020 season, with his best performances coming in the opening stages of Paris-Nice way back in March.
When the Classics rolled up he did not perform at all. Granted the race that suited him most, Paris-Roubaix, in which he came second back in 2019, was cancelled, but he never really stepped up with any of the other cobbled races.
The 26-year-old will be joining his home squad Bora-Hansgrohe for 2021 so he can support their star man, Sagan, in the big Classics.
Ilnur Zakarin (CCC Team)
A rider who has three Grand Tour stage wins to his name and a podium at the Vuelta a España in 2017, Ilnur Zakarin would have been expecting more at his new team and CCC Team almost certainly did as well.
Unfortunately for the Russian climber the descents proved, yet again, to be his downfall. The one stage on which it did look like he could be flying to victory was stage eight of the Tour de France, where he led up the penultimate climb before being caught and passed by Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale) on the descent, with Peters holding on for the victory.
Zakarin abandoned the Tour on stage 12 and focused on the Giro, which was his main goal anyway. It was going okay until once again he was caught out by the dreaded descents.
He lost time and had to turn his focus to breakaways again, taking fourth place on stage 18 and finishing 22nd in the overall standings.
Mark Cavendish (Bahrain-McLaren)
It was another year where Mark Cavendish just didn’t get in enough races to get his form back up to somewhere near his glittering best.
The British sprinter’s best result all year was a 12th place on stage two of the Tour of Poland. The Manxman did manage to help his team-mate, Phil Bauhaus, to overall victory at the inaugural Saudi Tour right at the start of the season, but other than that, some surprise appearances in breakaways at the Classics was all that he managed.
Once again, unsurprisingly, Cavendish missed out on selection for any Grand Tour, with Bahrain-McLaren focusing on Mikel Landa at the Tour de France and the GC hopes of Pello Bilbao and Wout Poels in the other Giro and Vuelta respectively.
The 30-time Tour stage winner is now without a contract and is looking around to see if he can continue his career into a 16th season.