Cycling’s transfer season is well and truly under way. With the rumour mill grinding, I’m taking a look at who’ll be where next year.
Alberto Contador to join Fernando Alonso’s new team?
There would be few better marquee signings for Fernando Alonso’s Euskaltel-Euskadi rebrand than Alberto Contador. Not only is he arguably the greatest grand tour rider in recent history, but he’d also be a home favourite on a Spanish team. What’s more, Contador is reportedly a friend of Alonso, meaning this deal might not be pure speculation on the part of the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.
They have reported a worsening relationship between Contador and the boss of his current team, Bjarne Riis, and according to Gazzetta the Dane could be willing to end their professional relationship after three seasons. In that time, Contador has won only one grand tour – the 2012 Vuelta – after having his 2011 Giro d’Italia win chalked off.
Will it happen? Though Contador signed a three-year extension to his contract last season – meaning he’s not contractually free for another two years yet – it seems like there may be a desire for this to happen from all parties. Despite not having another GC contender on Contador’s level, Riis would save the €4.5 million per year contract he’s reportedly struggling to pay the Spaniard – especially with Oleg Tinkov supposedly withdrawing sponsorship of the team next season.
Contador may well be happier at Alonso’s team, even if it isn’t as strong on paper, and Riis may be confident enough to put faith in Rafal Majka – the young Pole who finished seventh at this year’s Giro – and Nicolas Roche when it comes to the grand tours. This deal is far from being certain, not least with a sticking point over Contador’s sponsorship deal with Specialized, though it’s certainly an interesting prospect.
Three candidates for one spot at OPQS
One of the more active teams when it comes to rider recruitment have been Omega Pharma-Quick Step, who’ve already brought in a string of new faces: Wout Poels, Rigoberto Uran, Janier Acevedo, Mark Renshaw and French youngster Julian Alaphilippe. The upshot is that their 2014 roster now has 29 riders pencilled in, leaving only one vacancy unfilled.
That becomes problematic when considering that there are reportedly three riders who have been considered by team boss Patrick Lefevere. Climbers Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and rouleur Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard) have all been linked with a move to the Belgian outfit. The former seems to be a clear favourite.
Will it happen? This question shouldn’t be “will it happen?” but rather “who will sign?” Lefevere has himself acknowledged his dilemma, admitting that “there are a whole slew of names for one place,” and adding “I will disappoint more people than I please.” It seems likely that De Gendt will be the rider left with a smile on his face, after it was reported he was just a phone call away from completing the move to OPQS in August.
Given that the Belgian team seem to want to strengthen their climbing department, De Gendt is an obvious solution – not least given Vacansoleil’s plight. That would also rule out Bakelants, who has also been linked with a move to Lotto-Belisol after his stellar Tour de France. Given his rouleur-esque attributes, that move would probably make more sense. While Anton would be a great coup for the climbs, it’s likely he’ll now stay on at Euskaltel after their eleventh-hour saviour Fernando Alonso agreed to stump up the required cash.
Colombians still flavour of the month
Colombiamania is still sweeping through the pro ranks, most recently in evidence in OPQS’ aforementioned signing of Janier Acevedo, and also seen in Trek’s capture of Julian Arredondo and BMC’s signing of Darwin Atapuma. We could still see a couple of their compatriots arrive at WorldTour teams next season.
Climber Fabio Duarte has already ridden in the WorldTour before, when he was at the Geox-TMC team in 2011, though has since ridden for Team Colombia, finishing 28th at this year’s Giro. He’s been subject to strong interest from Astana, with those rumours refusing to die down. What’s more, his teammate Esteban Chaves – notably winner of the Tour de l’Avenir in 2011 – could be on his way to Orica-GreenEDGE.
Will it happen? Unfortunately the chances of Duarte riding in the WorldTour next season are extremely slim, after he extended his contract at Colombia through 2014, despite Astana’s interest. However, Chaves to GreenEDGE is still a strong possibility, and an interesting prospect for a team that has tended to focus on sprints rather than GC up until now.