Who’s moving where for 2013? #3

From the sublime to the ridiculous, sporting transfer gossip offers no end of opportunities for speculation and distraction. Suffice to say, cycling is no different. This weekly column will bring you up to speed with the latest, greatest (and downright absurd) cycling rumours for your own examination and contemplation.

Oscar Freire – coming out of retirement with Euskaltel?

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

The headline of this story in Spanish newspaper El País was Reducción al absurdo, a translation of the Latin phrase reductio ad absurdum or ‘reduction to absurdity’. That’s certainly one way to describe this story, with Euskaltel reportedly having hatched plans to sign newly retired three-time World Champion Oscar Freire as a rider and coach with the team.  Source (in Spanish)

However, I use the term ‘rider’ lightly, as part of the deal was understood to mean Freire spent more time at races off the bike than on it. Euskaltel’s move to sign the Spaniard seems to be as much about picking up 100 WorldTour points than the undoubted experience and expertise that the 36-year-old would provide. In the same article El País outlined the importance of such points to guarantee the sponsorship and survival of the small Basque outfit, and described the UCI’s points system as conducive to ‘grotesque situations’.

Will it happen? 2/5. While I don’t doubt that Euskaltel have made an approach to sign Freire – believed to have been after the World Championships – I do doubt whether Freire would seriously consider such an offer. I doubt he will risk his reputation for the sake of some WorldTour points, and it’s not a deal I expect to come off, despite the quick-thinking of the Euskaltel chiefs.

Michal Kwiatkowski – Omega Pharma-Quick Step to Sky in Cavendish deal?

image courtesy of DrabikPany/Flickr

In last week’s gossip column we reported that in Mark Cavendish’s expected move to Omega Pharma-Quick Step an unnamed “talented young rider” – believed to be Briton’s Andy Fenn – would be thrown into the deal as compensation. Source (in Dutch)

But, according to the Gazet Van Antwerpen, the deal wouldn’t involve Fenn, but Pole Michal Kwiatkowski would be Dave Brailsford’s bargaining chip. The 22-year-old started as a professional cyclist in 2009, with his first big move being a jump from Caja Rural to RadioShack in 2011, before moving to Patrick Lefevre’s Quick Step ahead of this season. He immediately performed well, winning the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen before a runner-up spot and podium at the Tour de Pologne and Eneco Tour respectively.

Will it happen? 3/5. With the Cavendish deal appearing to take so long to complete – with question marks still hanging over whether Bernhard Eisel would make the switch too –  the move for Kwiatkowski makes the complexity of the transfer even greater. He’s an undoubtedly talented rider, and it’s not surprising Quick Step are reluctant to let him go. But if that paves the way for the arrival of the world’s top sprinter, I can certainly see it happening.

Amets Txurruka and Ivan Velasco – Euskaltel to Caja Rural?

Amets Txurruka (mage courtesy of adambowie/Flickr)

Amets Txurruka, with his oddly placed ‘x’ and ever-aggressive style is part of the furniture at Euskaltel, having been at the team for five years. However, he has been unceremoniously dumped by the Basque outfit after failing to record a single race win, and he made sure he slammed the door on his way out, launching a scathing attack on the team and its new recruitment policy of signing riders outside the Basque region. “I will now see the team as just any other. It won’t be special any more,” he said. Source (in French)

Now it seems like Txurruka will move to another Spanish team – Caja Rural – as part of a package deal which sees him arrive with fellow Basque chum Ivan Velasco, a 32-year old who also hasn’t won a pro race at Euskaltel. Caja Rural are a Pro Continental outfit who would benefit from the experience and points of the veteran duo, as they look to build on their stage win at this year’s Vuelta a España.

Will it happen? 4/5. With both riders looking for new teams (and with almost entirely blank CVs) it seems like a move to Caja Rural – where they would both presumably be protected riders – is a good bet. It’s certainly something which I can see happening.

Who will be released from Saxo Bank?

Could the Haedo brothers be given the boot? (image courtesy of Roberto Bettini)

To end today’s column I haven’t got so much of a rumour as a simple fact. With Bjarne Riis executing a full-scale renovation of his Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team this winter, as many as eight incumbent Saxo riders who have not yet been re-signed could be given the boot.

Juan Jose and Lucas Sebastian Haedo, Volodymir Gustov, Jaroslaw Marycz, Luke Roberts, Takashi Miyazawa and Ran Margaliot are all currently at risk. It appears that the latter duo are the most likely departures, although the likes of veteran climber Gustov, unconvincing all-rounder Marycz and the eternally under-performing (or over-hyped) Haedos can’t be counted out.

Riis has some big decisions to make, and if rumours linking yet more riders with Saxo like Ivan Basso have some substance, there will be even more unemployed cyclists scurrying around looking for rides next season.

Who’s moving where for 2013? #2

From the sublime to the ridiculous, sporting transfer gossip offers no end of opportunities for speculation and distraction. Suffice to say, cycling is no different. This weekly column will bring you up to speed with the latest, greatest (and downright absurd) cycling rumours for your own examination and contemplation.

Ivan Basso – Liquigas to Saxo Bank?

Ivan Basso (image courtesy of Liquigas)

Image courtesy of Liquigas

According to the latest rumours, Liquigas – who will be rebranded Team Cannondale in 2013 – cannot afford to keep hold of their number one climber, Ivan Basso. The 34-year-old Italian, who has ridden for the outfit since 2008, is said to be close to a return to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank and Bjarne Riis, who he rode under at Team CSC prior to a doping ban in 2006. Source (in Danish)

Liquigas are withdrawing as a title sponsor ahead of next season after eight years, possibly paving the way for the 34-year old’s departure. Saxo Bank are the favourites for his signature, and he would join an outfit who have strengthened impressively ahead of next season with the likes of Roman Kreuziger, Nico Roche and Matti Breschel.

Will it happen? 3/5. Whether the rumours about the team being strapped for cash are true or not, I’m not sure. However, while Basso would almost certainly be Cannondale’s top climber after the departure of Vincenzo Nibali to Astana, the fact that the likes of key mountain domestiques Sylwester Szmyd and Eros Capecchi are off to Movistar next year suggests he wouldn’t have much mountain support. However, there’s little question he would arrive at Saxo Bank in a domestique role himself. It’s an intriguing rumour and one which will undoubtedly be watched closely.

Jose Rujano – Androni Giocattoli to Euskaltel?

Image courtesy of Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela

According to reports in Spain, Venezuelan rider Jose Rujano could become a rare non-Basque rider on the Euskaltel-Euskadi team, moving to the WorldTour outfit from the UCI Pro Continental team Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela. Rujano is 30-years-old and a very capable climber, finishing on the podium in the 2005 Giro d’Italia and sixth in the 2011 edition. Source (in Spanish)

Reports suggest that the traditionally all-Basque team are being forced to look further afield in order to recruit riders who will guarantee them more WorldTour points, ensuring their place in cycling’s top tier. They have even been linked with non-Hispanic riders, like German Andre Schulze. Vacansoleil and Sky have also all been linked with a move for Rujano.

Will it happen? 3/5. With Rujano moving into the latter stages of his career, a move to a top team is probably the only way he can guarantee the chance to repeat a Grand Tour podium. The Basques may not be happy, but it certainly appears feasible.

Andrew Fenn in Quick Step swap deal for Sky’s Cavendish and Eisel?

Image courtesy of Omega Pharma-Quick Step

It is widely accepted that Mark Cavendish will be moving to Omega Pharma-Quick Step next season after a frustrating summer at Sky. It comes as little surprise to hear that Cav’s best chum and trusty right-hand man Bernie Eisel will be thrown into the deal too. But there has been an interesting twist to the story, with the Gazet Van Antwerpen reporting that Sky want an unnamed “talented young rider” currently on the books of Omega Pharma-Quick Step to be thrown into the deal. Source (in Dutch)

Rumour has it that it is young 22-year-old Briton Andrew Fenn being used as a bargaining chip by Dave Brailsford, a former track champion and winner of the under-23 British national road race championship in 2010. This season he has won two of the five races which make up the Vuelta a Mallorca – the Trofeo Palma de Mallorca and the Trofeo Migjorn.

Will it happen? 4/5. Given that Sky are losing tw0 big-name, valuable riders it comes as no surprise that they want to be fairly recompensed. Given that Fenn is British he’d most likely be delighted with a move to Sky, with Brailsford likewise. It certainly seems to have some substance.

Pippo Pozzato – Farnese Vini to Saxo Bank?

Image courtesy of Farnese Vini

There has been another twist in the Pippo Pozzato transfer saga we first reported on in the last update. After strong links with either Movistar or Katusha, Saxo Bank now appear to have joined the chase for the 31-year old Classics specialist. Source (in Danish)

Pozzato finished on the podium of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and in the top ten of Milan-San Remo this season, and it is little surprise the Italian is being linked with a move back to a team in the WorldTour. 

Will it happen? 4/5. I am fairly certain he will be back in the WorldTour next season, the only question is with which team. Saxo Bank are probably the team with the strongest Classics squad, especially with the re-signing of Matti Breschel to join Nick Nuyens, and because of this Pozzato must surely be considering a move to Bjarne Riis’ outfit.

Who’s moving where for 2013? #1

From the sublime to the ridiculous, sporting transfer gossip offers no end of opportunities for speculation and distraction. Suffice to say, cycling is no different. This weekly column will bring you up to speed with the latest, greatest (and downright absurd) cycling rumours for your own examination and contemplation.

Joaquim Rodriguez – Katusha to terminate contract?

Image courtesy of Katusha

According to reports in Spain, Joaquim Rodriguez’s future at Katusha is uncertain, and is considering at a contract termination unless he is offered terms which he feels reflects his achievements this season. It is believed that Purito is unhappy with the deal being offered by the Katusha management, with his representative Angel Edo stating new terms must have ‘better economic conditions’ and last until 2015. Source (in Spanish)

With such quotes being attributed to his agent, there’s clearly some fire beneath all of this smoke. But with Purito having had such a strong season – possibly the best of his career – alongside already having a contract for 2013, it is unlikely we will see him leaving Katusha in the near future. The behaviour of his manager smacks of classic bargaining, trying to squeeze every last penny out of the management for his client’s new deal. Needless to say, Katusha would be daft to let their only true Grand Tour contender leave, and their management aren’t exactly strapped for cash.

Pippo Pozzato – Farnese Vini to Katusha or Movistar?

Image courtesy of Farnese Vini

Pippo Pozzato’s step down from Katusha to Farnese Vini-Selle Italia prior to the start of this season came as something of a surprise. He remains only 31-years old, and his podium and top ten at the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Milan-San Remo respectively this season demonstrates he’s still a rider capable of winning the biggest Classics. Now he is being linked with a move back to the top flight with a return to Katusha or Spanish outfit Movistar. Source (in Spanish)

I’d certainly rate a move to one of these teams as likely for a rider who is simply too good to ride for a Pro-Continental team. The question is, which one? Pozzato has prior experience at Katusha, and it is possibly they who are better suited for supporting him in the northern Classics. However, should he want a change of scenery, Movistar would be a very interesting switch.

Jack Bobridge – Orica-GreenEDGE to Rabobank?

Image courtesy of Orica-GreenEDGE

It is being reported that the talented 23-year old Australian Jack Bobridge is attracting the attention of Rabobank. The talented time-trialist was the Australian national champion in his preferred discipline last year, and could replace compatriot Michael Matthews at the Dutch outfit, with the sprinter heading the other way to the Aussie-backed squad for 2013. Source (in Dutch)

It’s certainly an interesting rumour, but isn’t necessarily likely. Bobridge is believed to have signed a two-year contract at GreenEDGE which extends into next season, and could prove to be a stumbling block. However, Bobridge – who was heralded as a huge talent when at Garmin a couple of seasons ago – has had a relatively quiet campaign, and may be growing frustrated.

Marzio Bruseghin – Movistar to Saxo Bank?

Image courtesy of Movistar

Italian veteran Marzio Bruseghin is reportedly attracting the interest of the Saxo Bank team and, more specifically, Alberto Contador. The 2012 Vuelta winner has apparently requested that Bruseghin be signed, despite being 38 years old. He is nevertheless excellent on the climbs, finishing 14th in last year’s Vuelta, and 17th in this year’s Giro d’Italia – a race in which he won a stage and finished on the podium in 2008. Source (in Danish)

Bruseghin would be a help in the mountains for a team who are short on good climbing domestiques. Alberto Contador’s struggle at last year’s Tour de France was largely as a result of having a weak team, while he was also often isolated in the recent Vuelta. Bruseghin’s signature would sit alongside Nicolas Roche’s as one which could be the difference between winning and losing a Grand Tour.