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?
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?
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, 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?
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.