Hear that? Listen closely and you might just pick out the tiny pitter-patter of cycling agents, scurrying around trying to get the best deals for their riders ahead of the 2021 season. Of course, they’ve probably been shopping athletes around for a while as well as taking enquiries from potential suitors, a process that has likely been complicated by the small matter of a global pandemic.
Teams budgets were plunged into jeopardy, with some outfits still floundering from the financial difficulties created by the coronavirus, while many riders took wage cuts and support staff were temporarily laid off to keep organisations afloat during the lack of racing over the past few months.
The full ramifications on cycling’s economic model are still not entirely known, but that won’t stop riders chopping and changing teams.
With the August 1 deadline passed, riders and teams are now allowed to officially switch teams. Usually, the majority of the cycling season is over by this point, but in this least unexpected season we still have the majority of headline events left to come.
As GCN’s Cillian Kelly has pointed out, transfer season can sometimes cause non-selection or unsual alliances being formed at the Vuelta a España, with riders maybe having already signed for different teams. However, this year the phenomenon could affect all Grand Tours as well as the Monuments.
While Chris Froome to Israel Start-Up Nation will likely be the shock transfer of 2020 – we’ll recap that later – rumour of another surprising move is coming out of the Ineos camp.
Richie Porte was said to be potentially reuniting with the four-time Tour de France champion at Israel Start-Up Nation, as the team’s billionaire owner Sylvan Adams gets set to open his cheque book to sign talent capable of supporting Froome, but another reunion is said to be in the works, with Porte maybe on his way back to Ineos.
The Tasmanian spent four years at Team Sky between 2012-2015, helping the British squad to multiple Tour de France victories before moving to BMC for a lucrative paycheque as well as the opportunity to test his own Grand Tour ambitions.
While he did manage his best-ever fifth-place finish in 2016, as well as taking stage race victories at the Tour de Romandie and Tour de Suisse, a fair amount of misfortune has seen the 35-year-old not quite develop into the Grand Tour contender he would have hoped he’d become.
Therefore, a move back to Ineos, where he may get his chance to lead the team at one-week stage races as well as playing super domestique to the squad’s plethora of Grand Tour talent, Porte will also likely collect a very decent salary while in the autumn of his career.
Staying with Ineos, who often make a habit of hoovering up cycling talent like it’s going out of fashion, Adam Yates is said to be potentially moving across from Mitchelton-Scott.
The Brit has been with the Australian squad along with twin brother Simon since 2014 and is said to be in the process of making his choice between the two WorldTour outfits. Uncertainty surrounded Mitchelton-Scott earlier this year with the Manuela Fundación debacle but Gerry Ryan has reasserted his commitment to the team, with Simon Yates now also looking more likely to stay with the squad.
Chris Froome’s transfer from Ineos to Israel Start-Up Nation was pre-announced before the August 1 date amid speculation the 35-year-old was unhappy about his position within the British squad’s hierarchy.
Carl Frederik Hagen is said to be one name coming through the door from Lotto-Soudal to support Froome, while Greg Van Avermaet is another star name apparently also written down on Adams’ wish list, with Ag2r La Mondiale similarly interested in the Olympic champion.
Meanwhile, going out the door at Israel Start-Up Nation is Nils Politt, the 2019 Paris-Roubaix runner-up who has signed a three-year deal with Bora-Hansgrohe.
The link with Greg Van Avermaet is the only good news circling around Ag2r La Mondiale at the moment, as an exodus of top talent is brewing, prompting the French squad to quickly extend Oliver Naesen’s contract until 2023.
Pierre Latour’s transfer away has already been announced, the promising young Frenchman signing for ProTeam outfit Total Direct Energie, which houses the likes of Niki Terpstra and Lilian Calmejane. Ag2r team leader Romain Bardet is also said to be looking for a move away from the team he has spent his entire, nine-season professional career with.
The 2016 Tour de France runner-up is looking to revitalise his racing, already having considered opting for the Giro d’Italia instead of the Tour this year, before the coronavirus put paid to that idea.
Sunweb are said to have offered the 29-year-old a contract, with Mitchelton-Scott and Trek-Segafredo also reported to be interested.
The German team have also signed German wünderkid Marco Brenner, the 17-year-old German junior road race champion also coming third in the Worlds junior time trial in Yorkshire last year.
Mitchelton-Scott’s Edoardo Affini is off to Jumbo-Visma, which is also the destination for Erik Dekker’s 22-year-old son, David Dekker, snapped up from the SEG Racing Academy on a two-year deal.