The 2019 season saw several star transfers that went successfully, like Caleb Ewan joining Lotto-Soudal and racing to his first three wins in the Tour de France. But not all moves went smoothly.
Several top riders struggled to find their feet in their new teams in 2019, left hoping that 2020 will be better or giving up in search of a new team. We look at some of those 2018/2019 transfer flops.
Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida)
The star time trial rider brought his 2018 rainbow stripes to Bahrain-Merida for 2019. The end of 2018 saw BMC Racing close and Dennis needed a new team, but his new location never felt like home.
The problems snowballed to the Tour de France, where Dennis pulled out on the eve of the time trial in Pau. Rumours circulated that he was not happy with the kit and that the team was not happy with his attitude, but nothing was ever clarified.
The team never raced him again, but Dennis lined up to defend his world title in Yorkshire and won. Racing on another manufacturer’s bike and with no mention of Bahrain-Merida on his Australia team kit, his fate was sealed. Days later, the team announced it had decided to terminate his contract.
Dennis is fighting the decision with the UCI governing body, but at the same time looking for a new 2020 home.
André Greipel (Arkéa-Samsic)
The German sprinter ended his contact early with Arkea-Samsic, both parties disappointed with how the season unfolded. With a massive 156 wins in his palmarès, including 11 Tour de France stage wins, the 37-year-old could only win once in 2019: A stage in Africa’s Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
He was due to continue with the team in 2020, but stopped early. It’s unclear if the decision was made with an eventual new team in mind or not. However, a month later, he announced his deal with the Israel Cycling Academy. The team will race in the WorldTour ranks next year.
Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie)
Dutchman Niki Terpstra used to power to race wins with his time trial motor and race craft, but then he left Deceuninck-Quick-Step. Over last winner, he was one of the top transfers thanks to his palmarès that included the Tour of Flanders from earlier that spring.
In 2019 with French team Direct Energie, he has not reached that full-speed yet to win. The season passed with some close calls – third in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and second in Paris-Tours – but zero wins. Crashes in the Tour of Flanders and Tour de France did not help. Team boss Jean-René Bernaudeau will be expecting more in 2020.
Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates)
The Colombian sprinted to six wins in 2019, but a rider of his calibre expects to win more. He too left Deceuninck-Quick-Step over the 2018/2019 winter with a golden shine. He had won stage one of the 2018 Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey and collected double the amount of victories that he would take in 2019.
Over at UAE Team Emirates, injury and bad luck plagued him. In the Giro, where he won four stages in 2017, he abandoned with one win after the first week. And that win came thanks to the relegation of Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) in the sprint. The knee problems that forced him out of the Giro prevented him from racing the Tour de France in the summer.
He rode three weeks in Spain at the Vuelta a España, but could only collect a third place. However, he showed a signs that he is on his way back for 2020 when he won twice in his last race of the season, the Tour of Guangxi.
Michael Valgren (Dimension Data)
Hopes were high that Michael Valgren would super-charge Team Dimension Data. He left Astana in the off-season with big 2018 wins in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Amstel Gold Race. It was a big signing that over 12 months flopped for the South African team.
Valgren never made an impact in the Classics this spring, his best was 29th in Dwars door Vlaanderen. The team’s investment with Roman Kreuziger and Enrico Gasparotto, similarly did not go well in the tail-end of the Classics in the Ardennes.
The 27-year-old Dane, however, showed to be returning to form with fifth in the GP Montréal and sixth in the World Championships, a good sign for 2020.