Officially, riders and teams cannot ink new contracts until August 1, but the gears are pre-emptively moving behind the scenes at races.
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Team Sky say that Geraint Thomas is already under contract for 2018, which has a one-year option to renew, but nothing is certain with few teams reportedly catching the Welshman’s eye. Thomas, though still unproven in Grand Tours, may want a team where he has guaranteed leadership.
Mikel Landa flopped in the Giro d’Italia in 2016, but returned to help Chris Froome win the Tour de France. This year, after a crash, he gave Sky a stage win and the blue mountains jersey in the Giro.
However, perhaps due to space if Thomas stays or to inner-team relationships, he is reportedly leaving. Some have linked the Basque rider to his former Astana team, others say Movistar, UAE Team Emirates or Vincenzo Nibali‘s Bahrain-Merida team.
Sky are said to have already locked down their winning Polish cyclist Michal Kwiatkowski, Milan-San Remo victor this March and 2014 world champion.
Russian Ilnur Zakarin, who place fifth overall in the Giro d’Italia, reportedly was on the market briefly for new team. An insider, however, confirmed that he had already inked a new contract to stay with Russian WorldTour team Katusha as they look to build on their GC ambitions.
Katusha have a much bigger issue to manage. The team and their Norwegian star Alexander Kristoff seemed to have fallen out over wages.
Kristoff is paid a reported €2 million annually, but since his victories in the Tour de France, the 2014 Milan-San Remo and the 2015 Tour of Flanders Katusha feel the price tag is unjust.
Kristoff acknowledged a “tense atmosphere” in the team, not helped by the team saying he should lose a few kilos. He, along with helper Michael Morkov, is reportedly is dealing with team Astana.
Astana, UAE Team Emirates and Bahrain-Merida will need to beef up their rosters for 2018. They’ll have plenty of options with riders like Kristoff, Landa, Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors), and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) possibly looking for new homes.
Without Kristoff, though, Katusha would have space for Germany’s Marcel Kittel. A move that would please German sponsors Alpecin shampoo and Canyon bicycles.
Kittel left his contract and joined Quick-Step at the last moment for the 2016 season when Mark Cavendish transferred to Dimension Data.
He is worth more now, but general manager Patrick Lefevere still needs to secure his sponsors for 2018 and to take care of rapidly rising star, 22-year-old Colombian Fernando Gaviria.
Having two sprinters like Gaviria and Kittel may be too much to handle for the Belgian.
American Tejay van Garderen won a stage in the Giro d’Italia last month after his bid for the overall unravelled.
BMC Racing and van Garderen do not appear to see eye-to-eye on Grand Tour classifications, with van Garderen still wanting ride for the overall in the future. It is uncertain where the 28-year-old could land in 2018.
Bahrain-Merida always planned on beefing up after its debut in 2017 with star cyclist Vincenzo Nibali. Currently, the team relies on Nibali, Sonny Colbrelli – who just renewed through 2018 – and Ion Izagirre.
Ion’s older brother, and Giro stage winner in Peschici, Gorka Izagirre could join from Movistar, reported Marca.
The Spanish newspaper also said that Italian Davide Formolo is considering a switch to Bahrain from American team Cannondale-Drapac.
With Cannondale-Drapac’s budget “extremely limited” and an ongoing sponsorship search, others may leave. This uncertainty has muddied where Rigoberto Urán will race next year.
The Colombian gave Sky its highest placing to date in the Giro d’Italia overall with second in 2013 and since, raced with Quick-Step and Cannondale-Drapac.
Australian Simon Gerrans, the 37-year-old who won Milan-San Remo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Tour stages, appears to be near the end of his career.
He and team Orica-Scott have not announced any plans. Like Cadel Evans did in 2015, he could bow out after the Tour Down Under in January 2018.