This year has been exceptionally hard on everyone and there has been uncertainty surrounding all walks of life, and road cycling definitely hasn’t avoided it with some top names having to step down one or two divisions in the cycling world.
Several WorldTour riders in 2020 will be riding in the ProTour or Continental level in 2021, with some pretty big names taking the step down.
With teams like CCC Team folding and NTT Pro Cycling taking a long time to find new sponsors along with the lack of funds due to the pandemic, its no wonder riders are dropping divisions.
Here are some of the names moving down the cycling leagues:
Jasper Philipsen – UAE Team Emirates to Alpecin-Fenix
This wasn’t because of the pandemic to be fair, this was because Alpecin-Fenix are building an exceptionally strong team so they can perform in the biggest races in 2021.
Thanks to them topping the ProTour rankings ahead of Arkéa-Samsic, the Belgian team will be invited to all of the top week-long and one-day races as well as a promised spot at the Tour de France.
So it comes at no surprise that Jasper Philipsen has left UAE Team Emirates, a team largely focussed on the general classification and with Fernando Gaviria being the main sprinter he will be a key rider in big races, giving Alpecin options that aren’t just Mathieu van der Poel or bust.
Pierre Latour – Ag2r La Mondiale to Total Direct Energie
Ag2r are changing focus in a big way as they have brought in several top Classics riders like Greg Van Avermaet. And with Romain Bardet leading to join Team Sunweb, Pierre Latour saw that he would also lack support in the mountains.
So along comes Total Direct Energie, who have been spending freely in this end of season transfer period. Latour will become the French ProTour team’s main GC focus in the big races as they look to challenge the likes of Alpecin and Arkéa for the top ProTour spot in 2021.
Kristoffer Halvorsen – EF Pro Cycling to Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
Kristoffer Halvorsen never really made that big break in sprinting for either Team Sky or EF Pro Cycling, with just four career wins to his name.
Granted, two of them did come in 2019 as it did start to look like the Norwegian former under 23 world champion was starting to really kick on as a rider, but sadly 2020 stopped any major form from materialising.
He drops down to the ProTour to join Norwegian team Uno-X Pro Cycling Team after three years on the WorldTour with Sky and EF.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – NTT Pro Cycling to Total Direct Energie
Edvald Boasson Hagen has had an incredible career so far and will likely come up with some more top results, but his time at NTT was like a rejuvenation for the Norwegian star, taking multiple Tour de France stages along the way.
But in the last couple of years he has been in the background as more of an outsider than a favourite in races, going for long distance attacks in the Classics like in the above picture.
But he joins a now very strong Total Direct Energie that has now got a smorgasbord or talent in both the Classics and sprints. He also reportedly turned down a return to the Ineos Grandiers.
Chris Lawless – Ineos Grenadiers to Total Direct Energie
It is always more surprising when a British rider moves away from the British or American teams, especially when the team they’re joining is French.
Seemingly gone were the days when riders like Bradley Wiggins rode for the French teams, but apparently not as Chris Lawless joins former national champion Connor Swift, Dan McLay (both Arkéa-Samsic) and Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ) who are currently on the French scene.
Off the back of his surprise win at the Tour de Yorkshire in 2019, where he beat defending champion Van Avermaet, Lawless hasn’t managed many other big results but hopes he can achieve more at the French team.
Ilnur Zakarin – CCC Team to Gazprom-RusVelo
After a very disappointing first season with the Polish WorldTour team, CCC Team, Ilnur Zakarin would have been pretty disappointed, but to add to that the fact the CCC will be no more at the end of the season must have been a big blow.
Zakarin has done what several Russian riders do when they don’t have a contract and joined Gazprom-Rusvelo. The team gets invited to some big races, Tirreno-Adriatico being a given as Gazprom is one of the main sponsors of the race.
Zakarin will be hoping to re-find the form that got him onto the podium in the 2017 Vuelta a España so he can make a return back to the WorldTour in the future.
Silvan Dillier – Ag2r La Mondiale to Alpecin-Fenix
A more surprising name leaving Ag2r with the shift in focus in the team considered as you would imagine Dillier is a key rider in the Classics for the likes of Oliver Naesen and Van Avermaet, but no, he steps down to the ProTour but not down in quality.
He joined Alpecin-Fenix so he can support Tour of Flanders champion, Van der Poel as well as help the armada of sprint talent the team has.
Dillier came second in the 2018 Paris-Roubaix where he was beaten in a two-up sprint by Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) after the Slovakian had caught the Swiss rider who was in the day’s breakaway.
Roman Kreuziger – NTT Pro Cycling to Gazprom-RusVelo
Roman Kreuziger has been one of the key riders for many teams over the years with him guiding the likes of Alberto Contador to overall victories at Grand Tours but has been relatively quiet of late.
The Czech rider hasn’t flourished at NTT with just a few breakaway and top 10 performances coming the way of the experienced climber.
He joins Gazprom-RusVelo to be the key support rider for Zakarin in their big target races. Kreuziger hasn’t managed to get a win since 2017 but maybe this step down could see the veteran get that win.