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.

Tour de France analysis: Week 1 in numbers

Depending on how you look at it, we’re either one-third of the way through the Tour de France – because we’ve just arrived at the first rest day – or nearly halfway through it in terms of stages completed and total distance covered. However you choose to look at it, it’s been a pretty eventful race so far, so here’s a quick review of week one of the 2012 Tour in numbers.

The race

10 – Stages completed, out of a total of 21.

1,616.5 – Distance (in kilometres) covered so far, out of a total of 3,497. (That’s 46%, stat fans.)

1 – Summit finishes to date: La Planche des Belles Filles on stage seven. There are two still to come.

Stage winners

Sagan is the only three-time winner so far (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

7 – Number of different stage winners: Peter Sagan (three), Andre Greipel (two), Fabian Cancellara, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Thibaut Pinot and Bradley Wiggins.

5 – Number of teams to have registered a stage win: Liquigas-Cannondale (three), Sky (three), Lotto-Belisol (two), RadioShack-Nissan and FDJ-Big Mat.

4 – Stages won by 22-year olds: Sagan (three), Pinot.

2 – Stages won by riders currently in the top 20 of the general classification: Froome (stage seven) and Wiggins (stage nine).

21 – Tour career wins for Mark Cavendish after his stage two victory.

16Peter Sagan‘s three victories to date take his 2012 win total to 16.

3 – For the first time ever, three British riders have won stages at the same Tour: Cavendish, Froome and Wiggins.

The yellow jersey

2 – Number of riders who have led the 2012 race: Fabian Cancellara (seven days) and Bradley Wiggins (three).

28 days in yellow for Cancellara (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

28Cancellara has now accumulated 28 days in yellow during his career – more than any non-overall winner, passing the record of Rene Vietto (26 days).

50Wiggins took the yellow jersey on stage seven on July 7th, one day after the 50th anniversary of the first British rider to claim the overall race lead: Tommy Simpson in 1962.

6 – Only six riders are within five minutes of the race leader in the general classification. A further six are between five and six minutes in arrears.

Other jerseys

32Peter Sagan leads the green jersey competition with 217 points, 32 more than second-placed Matt Goss. He has led the classification since winning stage one.

Morkov was the early leader of the mountains classification (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

6 – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank’s Michael Morkov wore the King of the Mountains’ polka dot jersey for six days.

21Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) currently leads the mountains classification with 21 points. There are 27 points available on tomorrow’s stage alone.

42 – In seconds, Tejay van Garderen‘s advantage over Rein Taaramae in the young rider comperition. They are the only two riders to have worn the white jersey so far, although RadioShack’s Tony Gallopin is just three seconds behind Taaramae in third.

Miscellaneous

17  – Tour starts for BMC’s George Hincapie, a new record.

Zubeldia is the highest placed RadioShak rider in the GC (image courtesy of RadioShack-Nissan)

5 – Number of RadioShack-Nissan riders in the top 17 of the general classification: Haimar Zubeldia (sixth), Maxime Monfort (seventh), Tony Gallopin (13th), Andreas Kloden (15th) and Frank Schleck (17th).

23 – Since 2008, British riders have won 23 stages of the Tour (Cavendish 21, Wiggins and Froome one each) – only one fewer than between 1903 and 2007 .

21 – At the time of writing, there have been 21 abandonments from the race – this includes Tony Martin, who withdrew after yesterday’s time trial.

8 – Eight of the 21 riders to have quit the race are Spanish: Mikel Astarloza, Amets Txurruka, defending King of the Mountains Samuel Sanchez and Gorka Verdugo (all Euskaltel-Euskadi), J J Rojas, Imanol Erviti and Jose Ivan Gutierrez (all Movistar) and frmer green jersey and three-time world champion Oscar Freire (Katusha).

Some data courtesy of Infostrada Sports.

VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of every stage on Twitterreviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.

Link: Tour de France official website

Friday Feature: Tour de France Grand Depart – in photos

VeloVoices’ friend and fan photographer, Danielle Haex, spent her weekend in Liege for the Tour de France Grand Depart – and she shared some great pictures with us.

Team presentations

First column: Fabian Cancellara, Vincenzo Nibali & Ivan Basso. Second column: Johnny Hoogerland, Bernie Eisel, Oscar Freire. Third column: Simon Gerrans, Thomas Voeckler.

All images © Danielle Haex

Prologue and warm-ups

Top row: Fabian Cancellara, Manuel Quinziato, Marcel Kittel. Bottom row: Edvald Boasson Hagen, Philippe Gilbert and son.

All images © Danielle Haex

Portraits

Top row: Edvald Boasson Hagen (with tiny teddy bear), Bernie Eisel and Mark Cavendish, J J Rojas. Bottom row: Peter Sagan, Sammy Sanchez, Stuart O’Grady and George Hincapie.

All images © Danielle Haex

Top row: Frank Schleck, Cadel Evans, Marcel Kittel. Bottom row: Manuel Quinziato, Tejay van Garderen, Thomas Voeckler.

All images © Danielle Haex