The Tour de France has packed up for another year but, as always, its conclusion marks the beginning of cycling’s transfer tussles and contract clashes. With the rumour mill grinding, this regular column will try to sort the wheat from the chaff and work out who’ll be where next year.
Oleg Tinkov to take over the Euskaltel team?
During the Tour de France it became obvious Oleg Tinkov‘s sponsorship of Bjarne Riis’ Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team wouldn’t last. The Russian businessman took to dishing out unhelpful advice on Twitter during the race, ordering Alberto Contador to “work harder” after failing to match Chris Froome in the mountains. Days after the end of the Tour, Tinkoff withdrew funding for next season.
However – and perhaps unfortunately – we don’t seem to have seen the last of Tinkov. Spanish newspaper Deia is reporting that Tinkov is in talks to purchase the folding Euskaltel-Euskadi team, in what apparently its “only chance of survival.” Sadly, even if he backs the team, he’d hardly be its saviour. Tinkov reportedly plans to completely revamp the team, to the point where it is entirely unrecognisable. Any previous Euskaltel or Basque connection would likely completely disappear, and the vast majority of riders will still have to find new teams.
Will it happen? This seems to make sense – Tinkov has made his desire to form a new team clear, and taking over the Euskaltel licence would give him an immediate route in. However, I’m not sure how logistically possible it would be, being so close to the end of the season. Several Euskaltel riders have agreed or are in the process of agreeing contracts with other teams, and cobbling together an entire new roster, staff and infrastructure could prove difficult in such a short time span.
Andreas Kloden to join IAM?
Swiss Pro Continental team IAM Cycling have already completed one huge coup by signing Sylvain Chavanel, and are now chasing another big name in Andreas Kloden. The German – alongside teammate Maxime Monfort – isn’t in Trek’s plans for next season, and thus is currently looking for a new team.
Admittedly, IAM signing the 38-year-old – who hasn’t been at his best for quite a few years now – wouldn’t be anywhere near as impressive as their capture of Chavanel, but would still represent decent business for a team seeking wildcard entries to next season’s Grand Tours.
Will it happen? I’d say this one was quite likely. IAM are short on GC riders, with Kloden still capable of reasonably good finishes in stage races. He’d arrive at IAM as one of the team leaders, rather than playing second fiddle to a stronger rider elsewhere. Don’t be surprised to see this one happen.
OPQS close in on Thomas De Gendt
With Vacansoleil set to join Euskaltel in the dustbin of history at the end of the season, it’s a surprise there’s not been more fuss over Thomas De Gendt‘s 2014 destination. He finished on the podium at last year’s Giro d’Italia, famously soloing to victory on the penultimate Stelvio Pass stage.
However, Omega Pharma-Quick Step appear to have made a move to sign the 26-year-old Dutchman, with the deal reportedly almost completed. “For me it would be an honour to work with Patrick Lefevere, I’m waiting for his call,” De Gendt told Het Nieuwsblad, in a statement about as definitive as can be without official confirmation.
Will it happen? Being just a phone call away, almost definitely. It’s a fantastic signing for OPQS – who’ve already confirmed Sky’s Rigoberto Uran for 2014. A handful of better climbers, and they could really have a formidable young Grand Tour team. Shame there’s a certain Mark Cavendish complicating affairs…
Lotto-Belisol chase Dutch duo
Up next, another tale of Vacansoleil riders in search of new teams. For Dutchmen Johnny Hoogerland and Pim Ligthart, Lotto-Belisol could be the destination. That’s according to Dutch sports daily AD Sportwereld, who have reported that the team are in talks with Ligthart, and Hoogerland could soon follow.
It wouldn’t be a surprising move, with both riders strong rouleurs who can work in support of sprinter Andre Greipel, as well as picking up occasional victories of their own. Ligthart was Dutch National Champion in 2011, and picked up a win at the Ster ZLM Toer earlier this year. Hoogerland – the better climber of the duo – won the Dutch National Championships road race earlier this year.
Will it happen? Again, this one looks likely. They’re classic Lotto-Belisol-type riders; strong on the flat and classics, capable of winning from breakaways, and handy for setting up sprint finishes. It could be a goer.